There is a trend that I have begun to see lately among churches that has been troubling me. I have noticed it in all denominations, in many different parts of the United States and across the world. In many cases, church just isn't working.
Let me clarify what I mean by that. People are going to church. Churches across America are growing. People are even getting saved. But week after week, people go to church and leave the exact same way they came in. I'm not talking about salvation. I'm speaking to people who are professing Christians, people who have become complacent in their walks with Christ and have stopped pursuing the deeper nature that He has called us to.
I was reading in Ezekiel the other day. It was in the section where God is giving dimensions for the temple and specifics for the practices of worship in the temple for the priests, etc. These sections, I admit, are often redundant, and I find myself usually skimming these chapters rather than studying them like I do other sections of scripture. However, this time while reading, I decided to pay closer attention and see if there was something I could glean from these verses. This is what I found:
Ezekiel 46:9 NIV
"When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate."
Whoa. That stopped me dead in my tracks. You mean to tell me that God wanted people to leave worship differently than the way they came in? I know, this is a literal leaving through a different gate. But the application is valid. God wanted all those who came into His Presence to leave differently than the way they came.
Why are we so flippant in our worship that we allow ourselves to come into the house of God, sit (or stand, or even sing and clap) during worship, listen to a well crafted message, and leave completely unaffected? We ought to be having an encounter with a Holy God every time we gather together as believers, an encounter that radically shakes the foundations of our lives so that when we go back out into the world, there is something that has changed inside of us.
This is The Gate Theory.
If you leave the same way you came in, then you did not truly experience God. I can hear the nay-sayers now: "How can you judge me? Don't you know how many people got saved at church today? I am just reserved in my relationship with God."
Here's the deal. I am talking about YOU and GOD. That's it. Are you being challenged every week? Are you seeing a change in your life take place? Is there fruit growing in areas of your life where there wasn't? Or are you still drinking spiritual milk week after week, never desiring the meat?
Look at everyone in scripture that had personal encounters with God. Saul became blinded by Jesus, and was so radically changed that he even had to change his name. Jacob walked with a limp after he wrestled with God. Moses, a man with zero conifdence, became one of the greatest leaders to ever walk the earth. And yet, we are timid, powerless, unaffective "Christians" that aren't making a difference in our families, never mind the world around us.
It's time we changed. It's time we stopped walking out of the same gate we walked into. It's time we started showing up to church expecting change. It's time we started allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, not the other way around. Don't just be a run of the mill, ordinary church goer. Start seeking after the depths of the presence of God, the places He longs to show us but we've been unwilling to go. Let's run through a different gate. Are you with me?