This morning, I finally finished reading through the book of 2 Kings. I am so glad to be done with that! Every morning for the last several days, I have been reading the very sad account of the degeneration of Israel and of Judah, the downward spiral recorded in the histories of one godless king after another.
I am impressed anew with the truth that the holiness we are called to live out on a personal level, the government authorities are called to live out on a civic level. Likewise for the church.
During this period, as Israel and Judah slid into rampant paganism, there were those individuals who remained faithful to the one true God. But because of the faithlessness of the religious leaders and of the kings, both the church and the nation fell under judgment. And those faithful few? For the most part, they were slaughtered by enemy armies or dragged into exile along with the godless priests and officials.
Okay, so where am I going with this?
In our day and age, we are prone to super-personalize our Christian faith. It's about me and God, me and Jesus. Do I feel loved? Do I have assurance of salvation? Do I faithfully read and study Scripture? Am I devoted to prayer? Do I tithe? Do I honor the Sabbath? Am I committed to sexual purity/fidelity to my spouse? Do I endeavor to live boldly, confident in the knowledge that God is both sovereign and good? Are my decisions and actions based on faith, or on fear?
While hyper-personalizing our faith, we then turn and look at the church (or our businesses, or our civic institutions) as something entirely different, something with a completely different set of "professional" rules and standards. It seems our corporate identity is often based more on a secular business model, when it should instead be an extension of our personal faith in and relationship with Christ. We are prone to erect boundaries between our personal holiness and the more public arenas in which we live.
Which got me to wondering: What would the church in America look like if...
...every congregation made study of Scripture, prayer, and worship its highest priority, more important even than fun youth activities or community service (although those are important, too)?
What if every congregation committed to tithing, to setting apart a minimum of 10% of the annual budget for ministry beyond their particular congregation's operating needs? Would God "open his storehouses" on his church? (Malachi 3:10)
What if every congregation in America committed to caring for orphans and widows, instead of delegating so much of that responsibility to Uncle Sam?
In reference to the verse at the top of this post, what would happen to the prayers of the church if every congregation showed genuine honor to the women in her midst?
What if every congregation resolved to diligently train up the next generation - not just Bible stories on Sunday morning, but something much more comprehensive: when we sit down and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up?
What if every local church was a "living body" made up of many "cells" that all function together to communicate, in a bigger way than our personal lives, the holiness and majesty and goodness of God?
What if we considered our corporate faith to be as intimate a relationship with Christ as our personal faith?