From time to time, a voice emanates from out of the intercom of my office phone. It is always the same instruction, on the same day of the week, at the same time: “Staff devotional will begin at 9:45.” You can set your watch by it. Today a new message jarred the counseling session I was involved in. Caught off guard, knowing the staff devotional had ended 1 ½ hours earlier, I tuned into the unseen voice and turned off the heart-felt confessions of my counselee.
“Attention! We are going into lockdown! No one will be allowed to leave the building by order of the fire department! A gas leak has been discovered across the street and due to the imminent danger no one will be allowed to leave the building!” A few moments later, a more forceful masculine voice dittoed what the soft feminine voice had initially stated. (Someone probably attempted an escape—one of the pastors perhaps?)
The first thought that swirled through my mind was not the danger of an explosion or the safety of those working to fix it. My initial thought was, “It’s 11:55! I’m starving to death! I can’t believe I’m going to be late for lunch!” I know that’s selfish but I feel confident that’s what most of my associates were thinking.
The good news is the lock down lasted about forty minutes until the gas supply could be shut off. There were no explosions or horrible injuries; just some frustrated shoppers at the Piggly Wiggly and an irate diner or two at the local Chinese restaurant who missed getting their fortune cookies during the forced evacuation. The bad news is God decided to use it as a teaching point in my journey to be like Christ. I call these instructional lessons prophetic parables—moments where God takes a real-life situation and applies it prophetically to a person specifically or a group of people corporately. In this case it was the latter and I knew it would probably leave a mark.
For many years now, the body of Christ in North America—the church (not the building that houses the people who compose the body that represents Christ)—has been in a state of lockdown. We look like cities under siege—gates locked, stocked with supplies, with congregations frozen in fear of the supposed threat lying an inch or so past the borders of our orthodox campuses. We either fear this world that is our calling or we have no concern for it. Either way, the eternal result is the same.
Our local congregations are filled with spiritual gluttons whose only concern is the next milk of the month teaching or that perfectly seared sermonic cut of steak hand-cooked to order by their very own personal chef—I mean pastor. We have become cafeteria line Christians—picking and choosing from a smorgasbord of what we like, dislike, agree, or disagree with. We take what we want and feast on it with little regard for what God is saying or those He desires to save who are alone, starving, and headed to hell.
That lockdown has filled the church with selfishness rather than sacrifice. Instead of becoming wells of living water, we have become stagnant cisterns collecting the soiled runoff of Dr. So-and-So’s theological fertilizer. The church of Acts was an explosion looking to go off at any moment. If you doubt that just read a few chapters and look at the impact of the Gospel’s message on their culture. They were fueled by a passion to take the message to the masses. In three hundred years they changed the world turning it upside down. That’s what explosions do.
Sadly, the church is no longer in danger of exploding, but rather imploding from a pressurized build-up of hot air created by decaying piles of eloquent language fueled by an empty love.