As I write this, it’s the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the day America changed. Now that I’m living in New York where it happened, it feels even more weighty to me, as observances are happening at Ground Zero and all around the area. As horrifying as it was to watch on a small screen, I still cannot imagine what it must have been like for those living here at the time to go through it firsthand.
This isn’t really a 9/11 post–I suppose it just enhances my pensive mood this morning.
Actually, I’ve been reflecting this morning on my own spiritual journey in regards to the Church, and where the Church as a whole is at today as opposed to where I once thought she would be. And I have to be honest–it leaves me with more nagging questions than answers.
There was a time when I (rather arrogantly and presumptively, I suppose) fancied myself at the cutting edge of what God was doing in the Church, and from that vantage point, in the world. I remember living among the prayer warriors, the intercessors, the “watchmen” who were praying and prophesying over the church and the nations. I led worship in these settings frequently, often led intercessory prayer from the piano. Sometimes, spontaneous songs would come forth that would become choruses and anthems, prophesying great glory in the Church and healing for the nations. This morning, one of those songs came back to me–a song I’ve not recalled in quite some time:
“We will stand in the gap
Come and bring healing
We will stand in the breach
Lord, for Your healing
“And the broken wings will be mended to fly again
And broken arms will be lifted to the Lord
And the broken hearts will be mended to love again
And the broken church will come to one accord”
Now, nearly 20 years after I penned that song, I marvel at the realization that in my view, the Church is actually worse, not better. There seems to be as much division and discord as ever, with the glaring exception that some sectors of the church have galvanized as a political bloc, and to my utter dismay are now backing a candidate for President whose character is so devoid of Christlike character that I couldn’t have imagined any true believer would have voted for him 20 years ago.
We were supposed to come together under the banner of Christ and be lights in the darkness. Instead, we continue to stand under fragmented banners of religion, generating anger and mixed messages. We were supposed to be agents of Christ to bring healing for the world. Instead, much of the western Church is identified by the rest of the world as an agent of hate.
Sadly, it’s not a lie. If you stand outside the Christian bubble, as I have, and watch how Christians behave, you can absolutely understand why the world thinks this about us. As a group of people, we have more in common with the likes of Donald Trump that anyone wants to admit.
As I observe all this, I marvel that there aren’t more voices within the Church rising up and calling the Church out for straying from her priorities, calling for repentance. It seems so obvious–I can’t be the only one who sees what’s happening. Why aren’t more believers shouting, WAIT A MINUTE, PEOPLE! WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?!
The whole thing leaves me with the same disheartening feeling of disillusionment that so many of us felt in the aftermath 9/11 itself–uncertain, unsafe, angry, bewildered. Things were supposed to be different. Things were supposed to be better. Things aren’t what we thought they were. Things haven’t come to pass the way we believed and said they would.
How much of the glory that we prophesied and sang about was simply coming from our own sense of desire? Was it false hope? Was any of it true?
Now, as I write these things, bear in mind I don’t mean to say I’m disillusioned with God, nor with my faith. I know that’s the case for some, and I don’t judge them for it. But for me, my belief and trust in God remain unshaken. The powerful moments I have experienced in worship I believe were real, His presence unmistakable, and God has shown Himself faithful to me my whole life. I’ve always believed that God is the One Who is constant, faithful and true, and that we are the ones who are frail, imperfect. So if something doesn’t come to pass as we thought, the failure is in our finite perception of an unfathomable God, not in God Himself.
These, then, are the nagging questions that I have, not in God, but in my perceptions of what He is doing. How much of what we predicted of the glory to come was based in our own arrogance in some sort of kingdom-on-earth that we called the Church but was really quite different than what God was saying and doing? How much of it was based on what we wanted to happen, rather than God’s plan? How much were we framing God in our own image instead of trying to conform ourselves to His?
Or is it just that it’s all too soon to tell?
What I mean is that there is also the factor of timing. If there’s anything I’ve realized about prophecy, it’s that it can look for a long time like the exact opposite of that prophetic word before things begin turning around. I think of all the Messianic prophecies in the Scripture, how many times God promised a Messiah, and how many dark years and centuries passed before Messiah actually showed up. How many times did Israel doubt, lamenting, “How long?”
And how many times will we do the same before He appears the second time?
I don’t have any clear answers here, nor am I as melancholy about it as I might sound. I’m just marveling and wondering and processing. I hope that makes sense.
What I do believe at the present time is that regardless of what we believed… today–right now–is not a good season for the Church. I believe the Church as a whole–especially the western Church–has utterly lost its way. I think our perception is clouded right now, so those who are still trying to discern the “Word of the Lord” in prophetic circles should be focusing less on the “Word of the Lord” and more on rediscovering the character of Christ–because that’s our compass, and that’s how we can see how far we have strayed from where we need to be. I think we should be less concerned with the gifts of the Spirit at this time, and more concerned with the fruit of the Spirit. Once we return to that place, I think our discernment will become clearer, and our gifts (particularly our prophecies) will be less corrupted by our own selfish desires.
It’s not the first time in our history that the Church has been in a bad place, nor far from the character of Christ. Within the first hundred years after she was formed, the Church was steeped in all sorts of heresy. Then she got in bed with the Roman Empire (we called it “Christendom”). Then came the Crusades and the Inquisition. Then we came over to the New World and pretty much destroyed the Native Americans and took their land while preaching the gospel to them. Come to think of it, there’s been a lot of times throughout our history when the Church hasn’t acted a bit like Jesus. So I guess this should come as no surprise.
That all being said…the Church still belongs to Jesus, and she is His to deal with and form as He will. That’s one thing in which I still take solace, that none of what is happening is any surprise to God, nor does it catch Him off guard. If any of the things we once prayed, prophesied and believed about the Church were actually the Word of the Lord, they will come to pass in His time, and in His way. I have to be okay with that.
God does have a plan–this I believe. I just am becoming more aware of how little I really know about that plan.