Relationship produces Issacs and events produce Ishmael”- Pr Laji Paul. Is the rush in creating “events – back to back” – losing away the prime focus in disciplining souls – The question in this period we need to ask ourselves- is are we program-driven or people-driven?
The primary focus of church existence is not about maintaining or organizing the “Sunday Service” “Events.” Rather, a church should be a place where people can experience transformation and people being equipped to do the work of God placed over their lives. Yes, “event” also becomes a tool through which people are being reached out -but it’s a thin and slippery slope in which we could end up entangling people with one such “event” after the next without making any transformation in the hearts of the people. While corporate Prayer is important, in excess- having it planned back- back – could be another program-driven activity and one might lose sight of the actual intention of the Prayer itself.
Being occupied with several Religious activities and Events doesn’t make one spiritual; rather it may pull you away from the Lord. At times, in many of the church’s efforts towards creating an event and challenging the secular world standards, many of these events have lost their original intended spirituality. Today we have a Christian version for every secular event. For example, Christian musical reality shows, and Christian talent performances, etc.. This new event-driven culture has also raised worship towards “Christian Celebrities,” where people become more interested in the celebrity than the word of God itself. If the enemy can deviate your attention from the actual battlefield, he is already wining.
In the fancy name of increasing “likes, views, and subscriptions” to the church or social page, events and programs have chattered all over the place. Oftentimes, we lose the understanding that it’s not “us” or our “event” that can change the hearts of the people – it is God himself. That is why Paul kept emphasizing across his epistles that he didn’t use skillful words or human wisdom, but relied on the power of the holy spirit to minister. Moses and the Israelites prayed that if not for God’s presence amidst they are like other nations in the world.
This has been a scenario we see God addressing through the prophets, in which people continued hunting from one prophet to the next. One event after another. God found their hearts were far from him; Observe the below verse in which God is speaking to Ezekiel.
30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.- Ezekiel 33
May we recognize the span of time we are currently traversing, and act in accordance with God’s expectation of our life?
Below are a few scenarios and verses from the Bible:
1) Martha vs Mary: Likely a well-known story to us, on how Martha was highly engaged in preparing food for Jesus. In opposition to this, she observes Mary deciding to spend her time listening to Jesus, and learning from his words. If we question whether it was “ Right or Wrong” on Martha’s behalf to stay back in the kitchen preparing food, then the conclusion wouldn’t be that Martha was doing something wrong; she was just trying to be more hospitable to Jesus. The concern is that it’s not a comparison between right vs wrong, but which is the better potion? Upon complaining that Mary was not helping in the kitchen, Jesus responded to Martha in the following way: “41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10
Likely in today’s context, I imagine Jesus telling us “you are worried and upset about the numerous “events,” but we are missing out on the very point of being with Jesus and doing the right thing!
Are we choosing what’s better? In the hastiness of organizing and attending all these events, are we missing out on being seated at the feet of Jesus and receiving from him? For an effective public ministry, quality time with Lord behind closed doors is important. Across the gospel we see Jesus oftentimes moving away from the crowd and taking his personal time; going into solitude to pray, while avoiding engagement with the crowd when he felt it wasn’t the time for it, compared to the thought of “not letting ourselves miss an opportunity.”
2) Day of Pentecost.
On the day of Pentecost the disciple, along with others, believed in obeying the commandment of Jesus they had tarried for the baptism of the Holy-spirit. Meanwhile, Jews across the world came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. The disciples were able to judge the season. Obeying the voice of Jesus, they tarried. Through the season of your life, where God directs you to wait, “just wait” to receive from him. We can see many examples of this in these lines of scripture: Paul spending 3 years in Arabia following his conversion, Elijah spending more than 3 years in the house of the Zarephath women. Rest assured, God has a great plan forward from there. Peter along with other disciples being filled by the spirit preached the gospel and in their first sermon itself, more than 3000 people came to know the Lord. A daily upper room experience of tarrying with the Lord is quintessential.
3 Points to be remembered through this pandemic to find the better portion
1) Be Focused – It’s very easy to have our focus shifted from the calling and the purpose to which we are called, and we could easily be tossed to and fro and be carried about with every wind of doctrine, program, and preaching that comes our way!
Quoting below the verses of Apostle Paul – 1 Corinthians 9
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
In light of the above verses, let us become introspective on our own existence. Are we being faithful towards the race we are called unto or are we aimlessly moving forward in our Christian life? Aimlessly running from our event to another. We need to discipline ourselves so that we finally make it to the end; it’s not about the speed at which you are moving but the direction in which you are sailing. Apostle Peter encourages us in this verse: “Therefore, my brothers and sisters make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”
2) Don’t discount the importance of fellowship
Don’t discount the importance of fellowship, and the importance of having friends and family around. God has not designed our life to be lived in isolation, even amidst this pandemic. Take time to foster relationships with the people around you; your family, and friends who stay by your side. The virtual screen places limitations on the social interactions you could be having, so make the best of time you have around; sharing through experience and understanding God. As the scripture shows, one testimony would edify another and you would be able to develop a stronger bonding with them through this time of the season. Don’t get carried away with the fact that these fellowships are less spiritual. These fellowships provide you the strength to move forward. For you, call your loved ones who live far away, share fellowship with them, and pray with them. On the Passover night, Israelites gathered in their own house-sharing fellowship and singing praises to God, while the death angel passed over the land of Egypt. Let’s have the same experience in our house this season, commemorating the Lord’s faithfulness towards our life, and may the sound of Praise and prayer arise from our households.
3) Don’t discount your personal prayer and devotional time the Lord
Make a schedule of the prayer, service, and bible studies you would want to attend in a week. Don’t overload yourself by jumping in from one meeting to another on a regular basis, as this will lead you to the burn-out stage. Ensure you don’t trade off your personal devotion time with the Lord with the events you attend. Don’t feel obliged to attend all the meetings you are invited to. We are not called to be “face- showers.” God is interested in our motives.
Stay focused during this noise all around us. As Jesus warned us during the end time, the love of the Lord will run cold for many. Let us caution ourselves and keep rekindling the fire within ourselves. It’s easy to slip into the busyness of being “religiously active,“ while losing the spiritual side within you. Let’s be like Mary who chooses the better portion. Let this be the time we respond as Samuel did: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant, is listening.” The voice of the Lord comes over Samuel in that time of being in the house of the Lord, while everyone else was busy running their own agendas. We live in a time where “personal discipleship” is being lost; a genuine burden for souls is so important. We have an increasing trend where you can find online people and preachers wanting to speak to a large crowd, but their doors are closed for a personal reach. Paul in his epistle towards the Thessalonian church mention this; “So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”- 1 Thessalonians 2:8. Do we have a heart that goes for each soul, that can do many wonders other than the mass event we could create? Indeed, it would also give us the right and best understanding of the need of people and make a program that would impact them. Let us pray that we wouldn’t be event-driven but spirit-driven and turning to the Lord with anguishes so that we might rightly influence the people around us.