I remember hearing Paul Scanlon use the analogy of a flight simulator to describe what church is often like…
“The church I grew up in was great. I loved the people. We all knew each other and loved each other—and we loved God. But we were turned inward. We liked things as they were and we weren’t looking to be changed.
God began to speak to my heart. I couldn’t explain it but I felt this overwhelming sadness and I knew I needed to change. So I left that church, and it was painful. The people I knew all my life were upset with me for leaving. It was like I’d left an Amish community and I was being shunned or something.
I spent 20 years at that church. We’d pray for our city sincerely and often we were weeping. We wanted God to move, but we weren’t willing to change and move with Him. It’s not enough to feel distressed about the poor and the lost. You have to make some kind of impact. You have to be of help.”
Paul went on to say that his church experience was like getting into a flight simulator each week – it felt like something was happening and it felt like they were going places, but nothing ever happened. Although they sang songs about shining brightly in a dark world, making a difference in their city, and sharing the love of God with people, they weren’t actually shining or making a difference or reaching people.
The flight simulator church felt good, but much of what was happening was merely an illusion.
Jesus told the following story…
A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, I need you to go work in our vineyard today.” His son answered, “No, I don’t want to.” But later on he thought better of it and went. The father gave the same command to his second son. This son answered, “Sure, I’d be glad to.” But he never went. Consider this story – which of the two sons did what the father asked? —Matthew 21.28-31
In His story, Jesus was comparing the religious in-crowd to the brother who sounded good, but didn’t actually do anything.
One of the temptations we face in the church today is to spend all our time on sounding and feeling good, but not actually doing good. We can talk (and sing) a good game while we’re not even in the game.
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This past December, our church was in a sermon series entitled, “Hope Arrives.” On the Sunday before Christmas, Pastor Angela preached a great message, “Hope Arrives Bringing Gifts.” Although her sermon was both encouraging and moving, the real power of the message was evident when she stopped talking. Why? Because that’s when we gave hundreds of Christmas gifts to children in our community.
I believe that’s what Jesus wants from us – not just sounding and feeling good, but doing good.
Sons and daughters who get outside and work in His vineyard…
Shining bright, while serving with all our might – loving people and making a real difference in our community.