I have felt the Spirit’s power. I have seen the church move on mission. I have been in small groups when the presence of Christ was mightily upon us And it’s great. And it’s wonderful to see and to feel.
And these moments don’t happen nearly enough. And it’s not just in any “particular” church but it’s kind of in most of them. Many of our churches don’t seem to be “going anywhere.” Sometimes “going downward” is an improvement on going nowhere at all, stagnating. But that’s how it is in some of our churches. We’re missing something.
In 63BC, the Roman army stormed Jerusalem, laying siege to the city. General Pompey infamously made his way into the temple, desiring to see for himself what the Jews sought to guard and preserve with their lives. Brashly bursting into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred of space for God’s people, Pompey found it unimpressively empty: “there’s nothing of substance here.”
My hunch is that Christians can find ecclesiology distracting and emphasize the church’s mission separately from its identity because the practices of the church no longer have any, or are gradually losing, substance. Regular practices of worship in a local body have been evacuated of formative oomph.
I don’t want “Pompey” or anyone who comes into our churches to say “there’s nothing of substance here.” Yet, for many our churches, I fear, that’s the case. This troubles me.