I have the privilege of preaching a sermon this Sunday at my church. I've been thinking all week about what to preach on and have been asking God for what He wants said, and I have a rough idea about what He is going to speak through me. But God always changes things up last minute with me anyway and gives me a totally new sermon the night before. (I wish He wouldn't do that so often! For a person like me who likes my schedules and everything planned out, He sure has a way of messing with me! LOL!)
Strangely enough, I also read another "sermon" this week that was written out in the book Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it was written in the late 1880s and is about a man who has insomnia. His insomnia was so bad, he slept in a secret, special chamber deep in the ground beneath his house to block out all sound. He relied on a hypnotist to put him to sleep each night. One night, he was put into a deep sleep and his house burned down, burring him alive under the rubble. He was safe, but he was left in a state of suspended animation for the next hundred years, where a construction worker found him while trying to dig the foundation for his building. After waking the man up, the man discovers he is in the year 2000 and has slept over a hundred years. In this, he is coping with the new 21st century and finding out how perfect the modern society is. Bellamy wrote his book at the time as if it were a Utopian future.
In chapter 26, the main character wakes up on a Sunday and his caretakers ask if he wants to go to church. Thinking the church of the future was part of some government-run universal church, he wanted to go to see what it was like. They explained to him it was quite the opposite; the church was very independent and was run mostly over the radio. They continued to explain that people could attend the actual church if they wanted to but most just stayed at home and listened to the sermon.
My first thought after reading that was, Huh... this guy is way off! The church looks nothing like that today! People still go to church just like they did years and years go! Then I thought some more and it dawned on me: this is EXACTLY what people are doing today! Instead of going to church to worship God as a community of believers, they would rather stay at home in the comfort of their house and "see what God would speak to them today" like they were entitled to some divine message from God. What has the church come to today?! People aren't coming to church because they're "not getting anything out of it" like God owes them some kind of an epiphany or something. I'm sorry, but last time I checked, God doesn't owe us anything! Just sayin'.
So the characters in the book sat down in the living room and listened to this preacher's "sermon". I keep putting the word "sermon" in quotes because, although it was labeled as a "sermon" in the book, it lacked every element that I normally attribute to a sermon. First off, it did not follow the traditional outline. Second, there was no conviction or challenge in it. Third, there was no Scripture used. And forth--which is probably the most shocking--God was only mentioned four times. Yeah. I said it right. FOUR TIMES. That was not a typo. It wasn't forty, it was FOUR. In 10+ pages, He's only mentioned four times.
We talked about this "sermon" in the class I was reading the text for: Religion and the Future. I found it shocking that it was called a "sermon" because all he talked about was how great it was to live in the 21st century compared to living in the 19th century. One student said that you could remove God from this text and it wouldn't change anything about the message. Most everyone in the class agreed that it wasn't a sermon. Except one guy. He made made the comment, "Well, when I was growing up I was raised in a(n) (arbitrary denomination) church, and our pastor preached sermons the same way: if you removed God from them, it wouldn't change the message at all."
How sad! That literally breaks my heart! When I heard that, I looked at him and my mouth fell. I'm sure I looked weird, but I was in shock. A church that didn't preach God?! What has the church come to today?!
All I know after taking this class for a week that I'm not liking the church's future. I'm noticing trends that make my stomach churn. I'm seeing statistics that make me taste bile. I don't like it, and there is only so much I can do. I'm asking you all, because you as a body can do something. Please, keep the faith, hold onto the Truth, read the Bible, cling to it, preach the Word, get out there and serve, show the world who Jesus really is! I will try my best as well. Keep me accountable to this. It's time we stop sitting by and letting the world invade and contaminate our churches. It's time we get down on our knees and really seek God's face. Are you with me?
Following His Call,
(2 Chronicles 7:14) (I wonder how many people actually look up these verses I have at the end of the post...)