A few weeks ago, our church invited an evangelist to come and speak for a few nights on the subject of encouragement. He really blessed our church: great message, powerful prayer time at the altar; this man had a genuine heart for God.
Those of you who have been in church for awhile can relate to the attitude that I'm about to admit to. You've all had it. Yes, you have. Even though we all know that we are not to judge one another, we still find ourselves meddling in others affairs---if only in our minds---by assigning each person a level of "spiritualness". We say to ourselves, "yeah, I'll never be as good as her...but at least I'm better than her." It humbles me to write this...but I'm going somewhere with this so stop judging me and read on.
I serve on the worship team at our church and as I was up there on the platform that morning and as we began the first song, God prompted me (as he sometimes does) to just look out over the group assembled there.
As I looked out at the approximately 350 people there, I began to see them differently than I usually did. Instead of the sweeping, 'who's here' gaze, I began to see each individual. I saw husbands and wives---some of them new to the church and leaning just a little in toward each other for unspoken assurance. I saw teenagers; some with their hands lifted high, others with their hands in their pockets. I really saw these people and God began to speak something to me. But I didn't yet understand it.
That evening when we all came back for the second service, that same thought pattern came back to me as we opened in worship. This time, God began to clarify what he wanted me to hear.
You see, we "seasoned Christians" come to church with our notions of who each other really is and what each one of us is thinking and our "discernment" of one another's "real reason" for being there. We have our preconceived ideas of how it's goona go and how it should go and how it'd better go; and many times we completely miss the point. Thank God that he has been showing me the point so clearly lately.
When I looked out over those people and into the faces of those couples, I saw what the Lord sees: people who are hungry for him. Just like me, each one of those in attendance could have been anywhere else that night. We chose to come to church---for whatever reason and motivations that got us there---the main theme here was hunger. Some of us thought, 'this is my night! The evangelist is here! Surely he will move God's hand in my favor.' Some of us thought, 'yes, this man is a mighty man of God. But he is no more able to pray for me successfully than I am for myself'.
Again, this past Sunday, God made clear to me the vulnerability of his people. I watched a young couple who is new to the church and newly free of a sinful life as they worshipped together. In the particular song we were doing, the men sing a line and the ladies echo and it goes back and forth. It was so neat to watch this man really trying to get his part right and then his wife would chime in and then he'd be right there, singing with all his might...entering in and being a part of the body. Soon, he was raising his hands in worship. I saw that couple as God sees them: children. Vulnerable and needy and desperately seeking his love, approval, acceptance; and his mighty hand to sustain them.
God is very much working in me to turn around this critical spirit. He is showing me that just as I so desperately want to see him move in my life---each one of my brothers and sisters in Christ wants the same thing. We all have our fig leaves that we put on to hide our vulnerability---but in some way or another---we are all truly seekers.
I need God to work in me to help me give grace to others. My critical spirit and judgmental attitude will only keep me locked up inside myself: unapproachable, unwelcoming and ultimately useless.