I'm reading The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning this week. The dude is deep in his thinking and he has gone to great extremes in his life to hear God's voice. I offer this quote for my first blog this week:
The gift of my own faith in Jesus Christ does not depend or rely upon any power outside of my experience of God's grace. When beliefs replace actual experience; when we no longer know but come to rely on the authority of books, institutions, or leaders; when we let religion interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we lose the reality religion itself describes as ultimate.
Brennan Manning - The Signature of Jesus
You may need to read that a couple of more times, as I did. Brennan is poetic and uses a heavy thought process in his writing...it must be digested. I was listening again to a message by Francis Chan, one that our Elder team is going to talk about tonight. In Francis' message, he talks about this subject. How he loves to be at conferences, like the Passion conference he is speaking at in the recording. He loves being there to listen to John Piper, Beth Moore, Louie Giglio, and all the great worship and energy. But he asks the question if we are really in love with these Words of God, or are we in love with how it's presented. Do we get more attracted to the presenter than what is being presented. Do we believe and try to change our life more when Donald Miller says it than when Jesus says it. Chan goes on to say that the crazy things start happening when it's just US and THE WORDS of GOD. That's when this unexplainable power of the Holy Spirit starts driving us and showing itself in our lives.
I struggle with the notion that I unknowingly and innocently can be presenting something on a Sunday that becomes a buffer between the attender and Jesus. That I can put something on SO great, so beautiful, so "gifted" that it keeps their attention on the wrong place....me. I have a pit in my stomach every week as I place myself and our worship team on a 4 ft. high stage directly in front of people as they 'wait' for us to do something. I look out at the crowd over three services and their eyes, not all but most, or on me....I want to yell, 'please don't look at me, look at Jesus!' This begs the question then....'why don't you step out of the way so you give them nothing to look at?' Believe me, I'm wresting with that saw, hammer and nail answer daily. When people start coming to our churches, waiting and relying on us, the leader, to drive their experience with God...or worse, our service becomes the experience...then we have to take a step back... and tremble.
The hard question for a church leader in America is, "how do we have a congregational celebration and service that speaks to people and gives them vision, without standing between their eyes and Jesus?"