Let me introduce you to a church! It is growing – is regarded in its area as having the best worship team and music – lays great stress on correct theology and teaching and has, for its country and location, a large congregation of some 200 people. Recently a friend who calls this church home shared a worrying experience which, I suspect, could be replicated in many similar churches throughout the world.
My friend who works with a group helping homeless, seriously ill and deprived children, gave a presentation of the groups work and asked for practical help [not financial] even in a small or limited way. Of the three people who responded one made no further contact – another, a new Christian, offered to help with their personal skills and another, already a supporter, offered to do more. My friend was devastated.
When I heard this story I was reminded that Jesus assessment of many religious people in his day was – “These people honour me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce.” [Matthew 15] Jesus was of course quoting from the prophet Isaiah [Isaiah 29] who had written the same some 700 years earlier. The issue, it seems, is common to every generation.
Yet – for me, the thing that is most concerning is the final pronouncement of Jesus in relation to many religious people who appear in every respect to be orthodox and active in their faith – “On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” [Matthew 7]
Perhaps we all need to remember that in the final analysis it is not so much our theology, music or preaching that really matters but what we do with our broken, our crushed, and our marginalised – “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” [Jesus – Matthew 25]