Recently, I've noticed some disturbing changes in the world. The changes were all taking place, however, within the Church. I took a mental inventory, as I often do for various topics, and I started measuring the changes in the dynamics of our church attendance. I focused especially on people who were once regular attendees, who became less visible, then invisible. Being open minded to different things that can happen to people, I gathered from all available information that there are people who were either now working during most or all services, going to school in the same kind or who had been in military service. I was humbled, though, to learn that some were absent while they were simply choosing to privately battle illnesses. I am thinking of one sister in particular, one whom I care for deeply, that I used to talk to in great length about vision, purpose and ministry. A few years back, I was having my mind blown as she spoke about different things she wanted to. I was delighted because, unlike many others, I just knew that she could get these things done. She was just that driven. Fast forward to this past Sunday, I was shocked as I scanned the crowd (I operate the video cameras for broadcast) and saw her face. I was hoping to catch her afterwards and catch up, but I missed. Her story is now very common to me. I was once a person who didn't care to be around church much, but, being the closet narcissist that I am, appreciate the warm reception I'd get here and there from the saints. Now I am in a similar position. Now I'm one of the ones on the battlefield (read: present as nothing else is requiring so much of a commitment at this time) wondering where all these forerunners have gone.
I never want to paint a picture about anyone without remaining transparent. I've uttered how much I've hated church more than once in the past two years. After reflecting later, I realized that it wasn't church I hated, it was not having that feeling. Now, I had no idea what "it" (the feeling) really is, but I will describe to you what I think it looks like as I have seen it on other people. From the various auxiliaries in which I participate, I tend to spend a great deal of time watching other people. From video, I see, and often hear, most of what happens within the four walls of the house. I have often, slyly and openly, explained to people that technology shrinks an atmosphere, and a random comment, at just the right moment, angle and pitch can sink a battleship. Oh, come on, you churchgoers know the moment: when that sister who is anointed to preach suddenly, being "led by the spirit" decided to sing. The long winded storyteller decides to recite the Gettysburg Address instead of just telling briefly of God's goodness (hence the necessary time limit for such a thing). When these, and the other hilarious things happen in service, there are chuckles, but there are also outbursts and statements made that can, in an instant, be heard around the world (we are literally an international ministry). While doing deacon and security work, which have quietly merged recently, I have found myself totally engrossed by the daunting task of caring for a soul in worship while simultaneously keeping an eye out for a villain who chooses this opportunity to plunder. But over time, I have noticed that the labor of love has felt a lot more like labor and a lot less like love. See, I had blamed it on the working in ministry for the longest time (well, since I started grumbling, anyway). I blamed the pastor for preaching too long, thus ensuring addition minutes or hours needed in which I'd be needed to serve. I blamed the saints for not clearing out within 3 minutes of the benediction (though I still don't understand the desire of some to have the sermon end fast, only to spend 45 minutes chatting about nothingness afterward. Weird.). I even blamed the "lazy" saints for not working in ministry, which is code for: 'join up so I won't have to do as much'.
What I've found is that I was the problem. More to the point: I was looking for the passion for this thing! I see the preacher go hard in the pulpit, the musicians burn the place down, the choir concuss our skulls with the heavenly refrain, and I'm over here fumbling with this tripod trying to keep the shot centered! I will state, humbly intended, that I am very good at what I do, but it was a gut check moment when I realized that all of works of the past five years may very well burn up in the presence of the Messiah. Without my heart being in it, I've literally been taking up space. Now, to draw this all into my thesis, this is all what Adrian was doing while still making a conscious and deliberate effort to come and work at least four times a week. I have noticed that many of those who started out with me, for whatever reason, are not. My challenge isn't at all in their attendance; it's literally the most irrelevant issue. My issue is in the state our decisions to come in and out of faithfulness does to the rest of the body. I don't need to state here what the world has to offer us saints who want to slide back into the world and buck the church. What is not being talked about at length is what happens to us "house saints" when our counterparts start doing their own thing. It's a brilliant act of war commenced by Hell against us. Satan has successfully countered us on two fronts: greasing the path of the backslider for an instant re-immersion in sin, and caused the heart and mind of the somewhat stable saint to struggle for authority. Most of the arguments that I see in the Body of Christ stem from an offense that could have been ignored, but is exacerbated by the offender who would rather go to the altar for forgiveness than to face the fleshly victim they left in their wake. Bonus win for the devil: the offender is now covered by plenary indulgence, but the offender has to struggle with the offense. You know how it is: you fight to get the strength to continue speaking with the person and NOT blast them on social media, or you just jaw about them to close friends. That sinful act is the 2-for-1 in Satan's eyes.
I hope in my ranting, I haven't varied too far from my point. My sincere hope is that Christians decide that we are going to strive for better by doing better and expecting better of each other. I hope we choose to follow that litany of scripture that demands we cover each other in love, admonishing, but protecting our brothers and sisters from secular mindsets that condemn us without mercy. That last statement is for all the Bishop Eddie Long haters out there; read Galatians 6, then come back and talk to me.