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The Disappearing Presence of God

From Tyler: In honor of March Madness starting today (also known as the greatest day of the year), I’m featuring a fellow former basketball player from my high school. Today’s post is from Chad Harms who was a ferocious defensive guard at McNary High School and is a pastor near Portland, Oregon.

God’s presence is not manifest as powerfully or vividly as we desire because the modern American church has been disobedient to the will and commands of God for the church.

I believe that God, as he did to the Israelites in the Old Testament, has decided to remove himself from our midst in response to our disobedience.

This begs an important question: How has the modern American church been disobedient to God? I believe the American church has blatantly disregarded God’s will in three key areas.

Sin

Jesus is recorded using the word “church” only twice in the New Testament. In only one of these two passages is Jesus offering guidance on the operations of a church – Matthew 18:15-20. We might expect him to discuss the really important church matters such as the right kind of music, the perfect programs, or whether a church should be attractional or missional (please note the sarcasm). Instead, Jesus’ one discourse on church describes a process for dealing with sin.

The Apostle Paul further emphasizes the importance of dealing with sin in the church. He says that people living in sin should be restored gently (Galatians 6:1), he calls for elders living in sin to be rebuked publicly so others are warned (1 Timothy 5:20), he is fearful that he will find people living in sin (2 Corinthians 12:21), and he commands people in church to disassociate with professing Christians who won’t stop sinning (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10).

The attitude of Jesus and Paul towards sin in the church is vastly different than the attitude of Christians and church leaders today.

God’s will is that churches actively strive to help people remove transgressions, but sin in churches today is seen as something to be dealt with personally (at best) or as something to be ignored altogether.

Unity

The modern church is focused on getting people to attend, but seemingly cares little about the unity of those people. This is vastly different than what the New Testament calls a church to be. Paul says in Philippians 2:2, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind…” 1 Peter 4:8-10 offers three imperatives to people in church, “love each other deeply, “offer hospitality to one another, and “serve others.” These two passages go far beyond the implied request of most churches today – “Please don’t fight.”  They speak of a connection that is deep, profound, and beneficial to all.

God’s will is that people in a church will be perfectly united, but churches today only seek to avoid disunity.

Leadership

The Bible demands that church leaders meet specific qualifications (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). These qualifications have been replaced with a different set of criteria.

Instead of questioning whether a prospective pastor is hospitable, churches examine whether that person oozes charisma. Instead of questioning whether a prospective pastor is a lover of money, they examine whether that person has a history of bringing in money at other churches. Instead of questioning whether a prospective pastor manages his household well, churches examine if a pastor has a seminary education.

Given how the modern American church has disregarded the will of God when it comes to sin, unity, and leadership, it is not surprising that God’s presence is not seen as clearly or powerfully as in the days of the New Testament.

If we truly desire to see an amazing movement of God in our churches we must stop doing church the way it “works” and start doing it like God has demanded.

Chad Harms is the pastor of Creekside Bible Church. He is husband to the beautiful and talented Brynn Harms and owner of the world’s best dog, Roy. He has a B.A. in Pastoral Studies from Corban University and a Master’s of Divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. On Twitter he is @chadharms.

(Image Credit: Jordan Robin)

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