For most Americans, “church” is the place we attend on Sunday. To some that means ornate buildings and men in robes reciting ancient prayers. For others that means new age campuses, skinny-jeaned pastors, and high-energy services. But for many, church is a place filled with hypocritical people who say one thing and do another.
Let’s not pretend that these stigmas do not exist. And whether we want to or not, we will bring our own experiences to this conversation.
Since the writing of the New Testament, we have been quietly building walls—walls that box God in to something we call religion. With a smile and a promise to pray or a jaded view of anything resembling faith, each of us dip our trowel in the mortar and lay another brick.
But what if what we commonly refer to as “the church” is distorting our view of the One who died for it?
What if what we now see is a walled-in version of the truth?
The truth is, church is changing. As Christians, we can refuse that change and fight for tradition or we can grow beyond our prejudices and step into authentic faith—as God leads.
Hearing From God
A friend recently said, “Matt, you talk a lot about hearing from God. I’ve been a Christian for more than twenty years and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard from Him.“
I wasn’t sure if he was asking me a question or just making a statement, but before I could come up with a crafty answer, my spirit responded, “Do you want to hear from God?”
He was silent for a moment. Then he replied, “Man. That’s a great question.”
I believe our inability to hear from God has less to do with His inability to speak and more to do with our unwillingness to listen. In a world filled with constant noise, it’s difficult to get beyond the tangible and step into something as seemingly intangible as hearing from God. If I have learned anything, it’s that God still speaks.
About three years ago, I began rising early each morning for what I call a “prayer walk”. This is my time with my Father. As I walk, I pray out loud and listen. And as I feel a tug in those deep-down places that are hard to describe, I follow them. Last week, the tug came to walk around my church seven times. That seemed like a strange request, but I’ve learned to follow regardless of how it feels or how crazy people might think I am.
As I walked and prayed, I felt like I heard God speak, “You have built walls of fear and hesitation around my church. It’s time for those walls to come down.”
Individuals in Community for the Kingdom
A quick glance at my own life reveals that I have built walls of my own—walls around my career, around my family, and around my faith. As long as everything is well-maintained, life seems to operate as planned. But when circumstances chip away at the brick, I go into overdrive to keep everything in order. That makes it easy to dismiss the needs of others and focus my efforts on building my own kingdom.
In short, the mantra for most prudent Christians becomes take care of yourself, avoid community, and build your kingdom.
While the intentions of our heart appear pure, we have become masters at building our own little kingdoms while neglecting His. But our efforts are simply a facade, a literal house of cards that cannot stand on its own. Comfortable is not in God’s vocabulary.
As I continued to wrestle with the words God had given me, I started to get a picture of what He was saying. The church is meant to be individuals in community for the Kingdom—unique, whole people expressing their gifts in the world, blessing the community around them for the purpose of God’s Kingdom. It’s really that simple.
God isn’t in to building walls, He’s in to tearing them down. As the church, we have no hope in standing united if we continue to remain segregated. We cannot give half of our heart or half of our life to a fully crucified Christ. He fully died that we might fully live. Jesus broke out of the tomb, He didn’t remain in it. As a result, we have to live resurrected lives. If we’re building walls, we’re living in the tomb.
I guess the point is, as long as we’re building our kingdom, we cannot possibly build His.
The Lord Has Given You The City
Joshua audaciously marched around the city of Jericho for seven days. Not because it was his agenda and not because it was a “best practice”. Joshua followed the Lord’s command. At the behest of logic and common sense, Joshua followed where God led. I believe it’s time for a modern-day rendition where God’s people are willing to do the same.
As God’s church, we have to stand together and follow as He directs. We have to march around the walls that have been built in our own lives and in our own communities so that He might tear them down.
In a time such as this, we cannot become apathetic, competitive and complacent. We cannot grow lukewarm in our faith and lose our focus on what’s really at stake. The power of God, the power of the gospel, is the only thing strong enough to transform lives. That begins with our own.
It’s time for the walls to come crashing down.