continued from Coming up Methodist: God’s wonderful plan
Imagine the majesty of a sanctuary built and fashioned in the likeness of Noah’s ark, is intricately designed with sculpted wood, and has acoustics that power the message of any orator well into the vestibule with nary a sight of electronic amplification. It would be beautiful no? The vestige, edifice, and pomp that accompanied the services in that sanctuary over the years have surely done it justice, and the architects must have been proud. David Wilkerson and other circuit riders even used to preach to packed audiences of Christian youth that once populated the numbers of evangelicalism and showed a faint promise that Methodism was being blessed by God.
That was one of my first impressions of “Church.” I was impressed by a building.
Now it has become a hallowed orifice. Revival was only a hope of those who dared pray the Lord would fill the pews with soldiers donning the armor of God. Some would even drop to their knee and pray to the Lord a mighty spirit of proclamation would whisk across the weary saints who still dared to stand for the Kingdom of God. Now the attendance on a given Sunday is a mere trickle compared to its capacity, and another staggering 50% of the formerly mortgaged parcel lay in ruin occasionally intriguing members with its ghosts of a brimming past that once promised life to the congregation. Bearing with it all, the news that one could only surmise, is that this steeple house, has seen her day. She now lay there dying, waiting for her last breath. And yet countless resources are poured into keeping it all going. For what I would ask?
The day I departed the First United Methodist Church of Wayne I felt a great sadness in my heart. I wish I could explain to you what it was exactly, but can only begin to mark it with great burden. The overwhelming feeling of hope that had been born in me the day I made it my home, inherited my new family, made new friends, and became invigorated with the zeal of Christ’s Gospel was a distant shadow. Having a desire to preach the Gospel that had given me life was my sole passion. I could hardly think of much outside seeing the Kingdom be proclaimed, and witnesses encourage other witnesses to not look back from the plow (Lk 9:62). My shoulders bore a weight I could no longer carry, and my prayers, as though they were not being answered, actually were.
Sadly, the church, while teeming with the life of humans who had breath in their lungs, was spiritually gasping for air as the same old same old was the accepted, and yet revered, norm. A fish fry was no place for evangelizing the ‘un-churched’ and council meetings were regularly being held to discuss the squawking of those zealously desiring to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. A thick air of sectarianism could be sensed between what seemed like an organized army dashing the dreams of some barbaric tribal upstart with nothing but hope on their side. Eventually, the upstart limped off into the sunset in defeat, but not in surrender. Even though many were attempting to silence those who were pointing out the obvious offense there is the resonation in the faithful to speak with Jeremiah the Prophet,
If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
How could a place that bore the name ‘church’ be such an enemy of the Gospel of Christ? Would those who faithfully remain, those who genuinely love the Lord, those who would lay down their lives for the Master ever realize that they had been overrun with tares? Can you see the wheat of the field if the tares have outgrown it? Is it plausible that the once potent Methodism of yesteryear had smoldered like a candlewick at its fateful end? One could only imagine, one could only dream, that Christ would revitalize the hearts of those who have chosen ‘church’ over Him. Truly, the first love had become an edifice. Truly, the faint knocking at the door is the Christ calling out to those inside to repent (Rev 3:20) and sup with Him. If the Christ has set the fire in the bones of those who are sent to preach His word, then surely those who seek to quench it cannot possibly be of Christ, can they?
next: Coming up Methodist: Messengers from on high