The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. Psalm 145:18-20
Speaking on The Lutheran Hour has taught me there are some very real advantages and disadvantages to having an unseen audience. For example, when I was preaching in the parish, I could see when the sermon was putting people to sleep, or when the words were hitting home (that’s when the wives would give their husbands an elbow in the ribs). Being on the radio, it’s impossible to know when a hundred thousand folks have pushed the button or turned the dial to another station. You can understand if I say that it’s frightening.
Almost as frightening as a report put out by the Southern Baptist Convention that says that many Protestants, displeased with their pastors and parishes, are going "God shopping". An article that appeared in last week’s USA TODAY says most of these folks joined a new church because their old congregation failed to engage their faith, use their talents, or seemed hypocritical or judgmental. A large percentage of people moved because they had found a fellowship that offered more appealing doctrines and preaching, or the membership seemed more “authentic.” How sad.
Now, if you are among the many who are going “God shopping”, please allow me to share a few thoughts.
If you feel your talents aren’t being used, then tell the pastor. If you’re still not being used, tell him again.
If your church seems hypocritical or judgmental, then you’ll have to go to heaven to find a congregation that isn’t. Christ’s churches are designed to call sinners to repentance and offer forgiveness to those who are sorrowful.
If your church isn’t authentic, then perhaps they need your vision to help them be re-authenticated.
If you’re going God shopping to find a place with more appealing doctrines, then hear the Psalmist, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” God’s truth is of paramount importance!
The bottom line is this. We don’t need a God who is created in our own image. We don’t need a church that tells us what we want to hear. We need a congregation that clearly calls us from our sins, shares the Savior’s story of salvation, and assures the troubled of God’s forgiveness. That’s a church worth joining and supporting. That’s a place where the pastor and people need us to encourage them.
That’s a church where God can find us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, for Your love, Your truth, and Your fellowship of the faithful, I give thanks. Send Your Holy Spirit upon my pastor and congregation, so that we may point others to the greatness of Your grace. In Your Son’s name I pray it, Amen.
Have questions about why tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech occur?
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