The Book of 1st Samuel starts off with a somber tone.
Eli is the priest, his sons are out of control, they don’t know God, and they are robbing God of the sacrifices people bring.
The son of Hannah, Samuel, is called to ministry at a young age and immediately God speaks to him that He is going to judge the nation of Israel, and specifically Eli, because of their sin.
In chapter 4, the Israelites go to war with the Philistines and were defeated.
The Ark of the Covenant was captured, Eli’s sons were both slaughtered, a long with a great deal of the Israelite army, and when Eli heard of the Ark being captured, he fell off of his bench and broke his neck and died.
One of Eli’s daughters-in-law was pregnant at the time of Israel’s defeat and due to give birth. The news sent her into labor and she gave birth to a son whom she called Ichabod – meaning the glory has departed.
And truly it had.
The Ark of the Covenant – the dwelling place of God – had departed from Israel.
I grew up in the thick of the Charismatic Renewal.
As a child, I witnessed genuine miracles that we read about in the New Testament and the revival our church encountered heavily shaped my childhood and concept of what church should be.
Here’s what didn’t happen:
- No reporters came to report on our church’s revival.
- Christian news didn’t come and record our services.
- My dad didn’t become famous and start traveling around the United States preaching on revival.
- My dad didn’t become a “healer” or “prophet”.
- Our church didn’t become a landmark from which revival springs.
- We didn’t brag about the signs and wonders.
Here’s what did happen:
- Nearly 1,000 people came to Christ in less than two years in a region of the States where the average church rate was below 5%.
- New visitors were getting saved in the parking lot before they ever reached the front door.
- People’s lives were genuinely changed, and to this day they point to that time as a landmark in their Christian walk – for many, it was the starting point of their Christian walk.
- We rejoiced more in the salvations and changed lives than in the signs and wonders.
There were no gimmicks.
We met in an old warehouse. There was no carpet on the floor so we painted a concrete floor to give it at least some air of sophistication.
We had metal folding chairs.
Worship was led by our associate pastor on the guitar, a piano player on an upright piano, and a few singers – often my sister and I sang and we were barely out of single-digits.
There were no stage lights. It was simple and raw. Organic – to use today’s lingo, but without being purposely organic.
There was no need to turn to gimmicks. We didn’t have to put forth any kind of image at all. We didn’t have to brand ourselves or label ourselves in any way.
Read the post: 3 Ways Christians Should Respond To a Counterfeit Gospel
We didn’t even have to advertise.
People just came because word of mouth was that something incredible was going on at a business park in Lacey, WA and people were dragging their friends and neighbors into the front door of our church to get saved and set free!
3 Things the Church Does When the Glory Has Departed
Those 22 months in the 1980’s forever shaped the way I view church, and I haven’t seen anything like it since. But I still long for it.
I don’t long for the “glory days”, I long to see a church so hungry for God that she doesn’t try to use gimmickry to make it look like He’s shown up when He hasn’t.
But that is what happens when the glory has departed from the church.
Why else would anyone want to get out of bed and go sit in a church and listen to a pastor speak for 45 minutes on something they don’t even believe is 100% real?
Because 3/4 of Americans don’t believe the Bible is the literal word of God. source
When the glory has departed, the church has to make up the lack somewhere and give people incentive to keep showing up.
And she has become very adept at doing this.
The results are seen in the number of mega churches all over the United States, along with the growing popularity of worship music, and the number of celebrities self-identifying as Christians.
1. When the glory has departed, the church turns to gimmickry
I recall in the early 90’s when church growth strategies were a huge thing for the church. Consultants and experts were brought in to help pastor’s develop a tailored strategy to attract people to their church.
But when people show up every week for months and years on end, and you don’t have anything genuine to offer them, you have to keep them coming back somehow.
This is what sprung concert-like worship with smoke machines and stage lights.
This is what brought us emotionally-charged worship to make us fee like we’ve encountered God, when we’ve really just had our emotions manipulated.
This is what gave birth to sermons that smack of pop-psychology, self-empowerment, and self-actualization.
Messages like “deny yourself”, “die to yourself”, and the mortal dangers of sin were left behind for the more popular messages of living your best life now, personal affirmations, and God loves you just as you are.
Yes, when we come to Him as sinners He loves us we are, but He loves us too much to leave us as we are.
His Lordship and the commands of Scripture are at the very least watered down, or at the most ignored, because if we preach a clear truth about homosexuality, fornication, and living a holy life based on the commands of Scripture we wont be able to pay the church mortgage and keep up our carefully crafted image and church brand.
2. When the glory has departed, the church loses discernment
Jesus said in Matthew 6:23, “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
The very mission of the church is the carry of the light of Christ to a dark world and dispel the darkness; and the light of the church is the glory of God.
If the church loses the glory of God, her darkness is a great, great darkness!
What’s even worse is when the light within is darkness and she continues to pretend that she has light; so she feels around in the darkness like the blind leading the blind.
In the midst of the fumbling around in the dark, discernment is lost because there is no light to illuminate.
And this is where we find ourselves today in an age when the church embraces a Christianized version of New Age teaching, idol worship, and even witchcraft.
I continue to receive outraged comments on my series on self care and personal affirmations, but I refuse to back down, because I strongly believe that the church has lost all discernment between the Holy Spirit and New Age.
The light has become darkness, so we:
- Advertise Christian yoga in the church
- We mingle Biblical meditation with transcendental meditation
- We teach about enneagrams in the church – even in the pulpit
Some are even openly teaching that we should study New Age teaching to “uncover lost truths”, using Christianized tarot cards, and Christianized clairvoyance.
- We teach evolutionary Creationism
- We embrace and applaud Christian celibate homosexuals
- We reject the message of purity, calling it extremism
- We use profanity and immorality-laced films and TV shows as illustrations in our sermons
The glory has departed, the church has lost her light, and she has stumbled into a ditch of the doctrine of devils.
3. When the glory has departed, the church turns monastic
A cursory study of church history will reveal that this has gone round and round, and we’re circling back again to a monastic church where the elite Christians who have an “in” with God become God’s mouthpiece to average people who do not have the capability of understanding the “dark sayings” of the Bible.
So, the elite, professional ministers in the church do the work while the average people show up to listen.
We see this in worship, where the music is too complicated for amateur musicians and singers.
We see this in Bible studies, where we pay hundreds of dollars to have a celebrity Bible study leader teach our men and women about God’s Word.
We see this in the gifts of the Spirit, where we attend huge seminars where celebrity “healers” and “prophets” move in the gifts for us.
My dear sisters, God isn’t unapproachable and He never meant for lay ministry to be so complicated that the average person can’t be used by Him!
God’s design wasn’t for a monastic church, but for an active church where the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Because in this He is glorified!
The same Holy Spirit that uncovers treasures of the Word to celebrity Bible teachers can uncover treasures to you, too!
The same Holy Spirit who heals sick people through celebrity ministers can heal through you!
The Holy Spirit can speak through you to a person who is hurting and lost, and reveal to you things about them that only He knows, for the sole purpose of demonstrating the might and power of Almighty God, so that they can do nothing but fall on their knees and confess He is Lord!
Just as in 1 Samuel 6-7, the glory of God was returned to Israel and they repented before the Lord of their sin and idolatry, God defeated their enemy.
It is time for the church to acknowledge her blindness, repent of her idolatry and involvement in strange worship that has moved Him to jealousy.
It is time to weep before the altar because the glory has departed and we didn’t know it.
It is time to seek His face, earnestly and genuinely with hearts of repentance until His glory comes again and burns in us with power and might – so that the church once against becomes the church He commissioned us to be!
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