Each church congregation is filled with people who have chosen to be there, a self-selected group who covenant to worship God together. Churches provide, in addition to the worship of the Lord, an avenue for many volunteer hours donated by their members, both on the church’s behalf and for the benefit of non-profits in the community. In a real sense the church today is a clearinghouse for anyone who wishes to donate some time. It’s easy in a church to find opportunities to volunteer and/or to initiate new projects. Churches are following Christ’s prescription to care for others; in so doing we are loving Him. Parishioners are certainly engaged in mission work.
I think that the modern mainline church is about two things today: worshipping God and caring for others. What is not so apparent to me is that the Life of the Spirit that Jesus called us to is being taken seriously or entertained much at all. Jesus modeled a close relationship with the Father, in which he did nothing without consulting with, praying to God. When he started his ministry, he first went into the wilderness to pray; as he neared the end of his life in Jerusalem, he went off to the mountain to pray; and as he saw the end of his life coming to pass that Passover week, he took a few disciples off to Gethsemane to pray. In between these major events there is a sense that he was very close to his “Abba.”
It’s not that I think that churches should stop anything that we’re doing. I don’t think that at all. What I am proposing is that we incorporate an intentionality of including the Lord in everything we do in the church; that we walk hand in hand with the Lord so that every step of the way we are working with Him, consulting with Him, listening to his direction and input. Here are some of the questions to ask and then follow as we move into intentionality: do we members pray daily for our church and everyone in it, that God bless us and that what we do be in God’s will? Do we pray in our services that God bless our church and our mission? Do we pray daily and together for all Christians as the body of Christ? Do we do this not just in our weekly service, but everyday of our lives?
Are we praying for God’s blessing on our church, for him to reveal the mission for everyone in the church? Do we take Christ along with us throughout our day, asking for his guidance in our work, family, church and leisure activities? Do we praise him as we succeed and when we fail? Do we turn to Him in good times and bad? Is Christ our constant companion throughout life? Do we feel gratitude or are we just thinking it? Are we truly humble or just think we should be? Are we aware of what God has given us? Do we live in Her presence? Or just wish we could feel it? Are we living out God’s will for us? Or do we just assume that we know what it is?
Here is a prayer that Ann Starrette of the Lydia Group and director of Spiritual Formation at the Davidson United Methodist Church in NC gave me that could be prayed individually or corporately:
As I prepare to go about my work,
may my intention to live in your present moment
be the pattern for this day and for my life.
With your help may I forever do only one thing at a time–
always in communion with you, my God,
with all my heart and mind and soul. Amen
The real difficulty in the spiritual life is to separate out what works in our culture from what Jesus actually taught and modeled. Our culture promotes a limited commitment to God, because it fits in better with the modern tendency to do only those things based on scientific evidence, to distrust what ever is unseen and to avoid any feeling of dependency or lack of control of our lives.
Every age has had this challenge. Jesus taught that we should not settle for the culture’s take on religion—i.e. the literal interpretation of the law by the Pharisees–and to look to the Source of all life for how we should live.