Daily Devotions

The Changing Christian Church

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Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. (Acts 20:28)

One of the most difficult parts of becoming a minister was admitting all the things I didn’t know. Worse, that there are no easy answers in life or in faith. I began my ordained ministry at the end of denominational Christianity’s power and the beginning of megachurch dominance. Denominational Christianity showed its weaknesses over time and people were tired of its limitations. Sadly, far too many people jumped into the megachurch reality without realizing it had even more limitations.

The megachurch model requires enormous popularity to remain effective. In order to remain afloat, the megachurch often had to adopt a consumer model based on popular marketing strategies in order to sustain its popularity. There was no room for complexity or prophetic challenges because they have the potential to create the dreaded idea of controversy. Any form of disagreement could lead to lower numbers at worship, and that could threaten the mega, in megachurch.

While there remains a large number of megachurches dominating the Christian landscape, including in our own community, I believe their days, too, are numbered. Like denominationalism, the megachurch model has been around long enough to expose their shortcomings. The financial overhead, the impact of the irreplaceable celebrity pastor, and the changing culture that demands an evolving social ethic of justice is chipping away at the popularity of the megachurch. It is getting harder for any one church to be the spiritual one-size-fits-all!

Today, pray for the Christian Church. God has called us to live in community, but that community can take on many forms. Perhaps we will become house churches without any professional clergy, but that too will have its limitations and abuses. There is no perfect Church, because all human institutions are limited. Yet, we must continue to worship in community, in some fashion, because that is what God has called us to do. As long as we continue to faithfully respond, God’s Spirit will bless and guide our path. Keep reaching out in community, so we can honor God and make a positive difference in God’s holy name.

A Sigh is Worth a Thousand Words

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

This passage is extremely humbling. We are filled with weaknesses. Further, we do not know how to pray. Yet, in spite of all our limitations, the Holy Spirit intercedes. To “intercede” means “to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.” I believe the Apostle Paul chose his words carefully. Our weakness and lack of prayer creates a difficulty or trouble for each of us.

You can intercede in the simplest ways — but not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. The Holy Spirit empathizes with us at a primal level; at a level more primitive than words. Words are not necessary when deep emotion is being conveyed. Sometimes I just look at my daughter and just melt in gratitude to God for the gift of her. I have this great picture of our 7-week-old grandson looking at my wife. Long before he can talk, his look, his sigh, is one of deep longing for her, so deep words are not necessary.

These are two of my personal examples of sighs too deep for words. I am a flawed human being. Imagine the Divinely loving sighs the Spirit initiates in each one of our lives. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Spirit acts on our behalf, interceding for us over and over again. The motivation for those intercessions wasn’t parental responsibility, or even Divine compassion. No, the Spirit’s intercessory sighs are about intense love, even deeper than that between a baby and grandmother.

Today, begin by remembering each of those moments where you sighed too deep for words. It might have been your wedding day, or the day your child was born. Then contemplate how much greater God’s capacity is to love than yours or mine. Ask God to expand your capacity to love. The more we are able to love beyond words, the more we are able to appreciate the way God loves. The Spirit speaks through sighs. In prayer you will be able to listen, and feel incomprehensible joy, love, and acceptance. That is why this is one of my favorite passages.

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