“Neither shall they say, Lo here or lo there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you…” Luke 17:21
As a minister and minister of music, I learned early that the most important time in the church service is the invitation (or call to discipleship). Every single music note, church fan, smile, and sermon is intentional for the moment a person comes to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and partner with a specific community of like-minded believers also called a church. It should be handled reverently and with the utmost respect as it is the most pivotal moment of a person’s life.
There are times when God loves to shake things up a bit. There are spaces where rules are outweighed with grace, pageantry is replaced by encounters, and normalcy is replaced by life-changing events. Up until a few months ago, we had the luxury of thinking that these things only happen in Biblical days or-at best-in the pages of history books. I work with a Senior gentleman whose parents survived the Depression. I asked him if this was similar, and he said, “there has never been anything like this. I’ve seen a lot, but I don’t even have anything to measure this peculiar time by.” I knew then that this is indeed a God thing happening.
Social media avails people with the opportunity to speak all of their minds and argue semantics at will. I have watched so many wondering about the reopening of places of worship over and over again. Is it safe? Is it legal to keep people out? Are Pastors and leadership following protocol or “scared” and disobedient to God? I’ve done my best to inform those I lead, and minister to about the line of the secular and spiritual, and I have tried (failing at times) to be a voice of reason to those with strong opinions. One thing I know for sure: life and times as we knew it are gone forever. The great chasm of playing church and being church has widened, and we are forced to look at several things.
Jesus often dealt with the weight of heresy and public opinion, and it often came from Pharisees. In Luke 17, the Pharisees asked Jesus when they should “expect” this kingdom of God that He constantly spoke of. He replied without a second thought. He emphatically told them that the Kingdom of God is not about observation-it is not something you wait for or time with a watch. The Kingdom of God is about “becoming”! It is no wonder that Pharisees are often offended by Jesus. He always spoke about doing and not about saying. The Pharisees wanted an RSVP so that they could either prove Him wrong or be counted in attendance. They missed the fact that God often did His GREATEST works sans a building.
Think now to the current day. Many are frustrated, worried, and even angry about the systematic journey to the building on Sunday to be together. Before you get me wrong, I am not only a minister but a church kid. More than three days a week for all of my life, I darkened the door of the temple, ready to commune with the saints. And I yet miss the personal interaction. But my concern runs deeper than intermingling. I am concerned that we may be missing the bigger picture. God never intended for His people to become a social gathering of meetings, hugs, and exclusivity between themselves.
Rather, God’s truest intent for the lives of humanity is to live out “on Earth, as it is in heaven.” Heaven is the place where the kingdom is lived out. It is where beings know who they are and worship their creator en concert through those dispersed gifts. Have we forgotten our true goal? Is it to just “be together”? Or is it to live a life of intentional love and healing every single day? Can Jesus’ words be any truer? The Kingdom of God is within us! It is in the space we lost often reject and deflect. It is in the interaction at the stoplight when we smile at the man or woman who had a rough day. It is in the ability to give up that close parking space at the grocery store because we see someone who we prefer to have it. It is in teaching, studying for, and living out in front of our children what the greatest honor is.
I long to grab a mic in a church again soon. But sooner than that, I desire to be the living epistle, read of all men. I choose to live so loudly that the doors of the church within me echo the sentiments of Walter Hawkins, who penned, “I will open up my heart to everyone I see and say Jesus Christ is the way…”