As I write this my wife and I are seeking a new local church with whom to fellowship. The most troublesome trend I’ve noticed as we are going through this process is that there seems to be a common thread running through many churches that emphasizes their social programs rather than the process of becoming fully committed followers of Jesus. The announcements that flash on a screen or are spoken from the stage all point to the various programming available to the attendees. As A.W. Tozer noted over fifty years ago, “Christian expectation in the average church follows the program, not the promises.” (“Faith without Expectation Is Dead”)
In the same message, Tozer went on to say, “We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of non-expectation, and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us.” Too often we attend a weekend service with no expectation of experiencing the presence of Christ. We go because we’ve always gone or because it’s the “Christian” thing to do. When was the last time you went to church fully expecting to see a move of God? Instead we go more to socialize and learn about upcoming events we might enjoy.
As Tozer said, we must get back to focusing on the promises of Scripture. The Bible tells us that where just two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, that He is there with them. (Matthew 18:20) How much more should we be assured of His presence when gathering together with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of like-minded believers? But we don’t act as if Jesus is among us during a typical Sunday service. We are so focused on the program that we lose sight of the promise of His presence.
How might our worship be different if the physical presence of Jesus was standing among us? Instead of ticking off one portion of the service in anticipation of the next, we would be on our faces in horror and reverence to the Holy Lamb of God. We would be speechless, transfixed, and have no care or concept of time. We would want nothing else than to be in His presence and to do whatever He told us to do. And yet every time we gather together, this opportunity is there. Unfortunately we are too busy “doing church” to recognize that the Creator of the Universe is standing in our presence.
Fellowship among believers is a beautiful thing. We must remember though to never squander the opportunity of gathering together to make His name known to those around us. Small groups are worthless if their focus is not on furthering the mission of Jesus. Youth programs mean little if we are not instilling the next generation with an uncontainable love for Christ. No amount of programming replaces a single promise of God. I don’t care about the softball or the bowling league. I only want to join arms with others who are interested in taking the love of Jesus beyond the walls of our worship centers. It’s the promises, not the programs, that build the Church.