No one wants to be sidelined but to do it intentionally is a different story. One definition of sidelined I saw described it this way. “Removed from the center of activity or attention; placed in a less influential position.” This week we saw the stars of the sports world sidelined and not able to play the games they love because of the coronavirus. They were not benched; they were completely sidelined, as there was no game to play. Games were cancelled from basketball to tennis to auto racing and many in-between. There was nothing to do but wait. At the same time church was also cancelled yet this is different as they took themselves out of an influential position. A game, no offense is just that, a game. The true Church on the other hand stands as an entrance to eternal life or eternal damnation. Acts 26:8 “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Yes sports are fun to watch and participate in but that is about it on the eternal spectrum of things. Yes there are times when church gets cancelled due to weather but what happened yesterday should not be one of those times. The world we lived in just got turned upside down and fear is running wild and the church sidelined itself.
This is the strange part, as they actually weren't forced to the side, they took themselves out. They just did what everyone else was doing except the church is not to be like everyone else. The easy thing to do was go online and close the doors. That way there really could be no fallout, as most already had online services. I was amazed how quickly that happened but it really brings clarity to the powerless church. Sure some churches are powerful but they do not have power to defeat our enemies. This cancellation of church shows that it doesn’t stand a chance if things actually got bad. I‘m not saying it’s not bad but it could be a whole lot worse. I am still in shock as to how many closed their doors without even trying to do something different. But that is the problem. The church is run as a business just like all the other business that deal with people. They were told this is what you should do. The church said okay quite easily because they really are not at the centre of activity. The church is just a powerless organization filled with unbelief who simply doesn’t believe in the available power as described by Paul in Ephesians 1:19 “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” Because most have gone their own way, that power isn’t actually available unless they turn from their wicked ways and repent but most will not do that.
So what was the message the church gave the world this weekend. I am sure most would say nothing was different, we just met together online. The world would say they are no different than anyone else. The message from the church to the world was simple. We are just human like you, void of power like you. Yes we worship God but really don’t believe most of what he says so we modified it to our liking.
I heard this story years ago and thought it would be appropriate for today’s blog. “On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew. Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club. Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside. At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club. But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded. If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown.”
Yesterday’s church closure shows the world but more importantly shows God that they have no idea of their original purpose. They have no idea how far they have fallen. Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Deuteronomy 9:12 “Then the Lord told me, “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves.” The idol the church has made is the church itself. It looks good. Serves a purpose. Seems to line up with scripture yet scripture itself calls it a flimsy wall. This flimsy wall was on full display the day the churches closed. Ezekiel 13:10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with? 13 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath I will unleash a violent wind, and in my anger hailstones and torrents of rain will fall with destructive fury. 14 I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord. 15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash.” Jesus later said Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” The church that has been created by man is nothing but whitewash. Yes on the outside it looks like a church but on the inside it is just man’s doctrines and theology with no power. This powerless church cannot stand against its enemies.
Joshua was told Joshua 7:11 “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” This is today’s church as God said to Joshua. They have turned their back and run away because they have violated the new covenant. Not until the church turns from its wicked ways will God return in power. When that happens everyone will know that God reigns in power. Ezekiel 39:7 “‘I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel. Numbers 23:23 “It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!”