Practical Application of the Word of God
The very few times in my life I’ve heard Amos 8:11-12 read aloud or referred to by someone in the ekklesia, it has always been portrayed by the church organizations as being a statement that applies to the end of some kind of centralized gospel proclamation “work” to (like all of the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament) people outside the ekklesia just before the return of Jesus Christ.
In fact, I believe that this section of scripture (and the rest of the major and minor prophets) applies to both the ekklesia and the people outside the ekklesia. In other words, the warnings are for all of us.
I have observed over the last several years Amos 8:11-12 being fulfilled within not only the corporate church organizational constructs, but also within and among the ekklesia who are scattered among these organizational splits that have occurred because of the lust for power and money.
Oh, yes, banners of doctrinal differences have been the banner waved to get the ekklesia to scatter, but with time the stories of backroom deals and agreements to orchestrate the divisions so that the corporate entities could survive and thrive have emerged.
More tellingly, though, the weary ekklesia has observed that, in a nod to The Who’s prescient and relevant “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the new boss is remarkably the same as the old boss.
One way in which the old boss and the new boss within the corporate church organizational constructs are eerily similar is in a famine of the hearing of the words of the Lord from ministers.
The trend I’ve been observing is to increasingly rely on organizational writing – written by fallible humans like you and me – or external writing as the primary foundation of sermons, instead of God’s word.
More and more, if scripture is included as part of the sermon presentation, scriptures are referred to with a statement like “you don’t have to turn there…I’ll just read it to you,” as a footnote to the sermon, which is based primarily on another human’s observation and take on the subject.
That concerns me profoundly. We ostensibly go to services to hear the word of God expounded. That includes studying it, reading it, discussing it, and drawing the instruction that God gives us from it. However, when the word of God is sidelined or eliminated in favor of human ideas and opinions, something is very, very wrong within the church.
I don’t know that I have all the answers or all the right answers as to why a famine of the hearing of the words of the Lord is happening, but I can certainly make some educated guesses based on experience and observation.
One reason is that as society becomes more secular, the corporate church organizations have increased pressure, to keep dollars, numbers, and power intact to support themselves, to become more secular as well.
One way to do that is to put God’s word in the background, superficially claiming to live by it and preach it, and bring a more secular approach to the foreground. In short, it’s an economic decision to try to keep and increase a more secular audience.
Another reason, I think, is age and fatigue. The ministry is relatively elderly and I believe they’re just too tired to put the effort into preparing sermons using God’s word as the cornerstone and exhaustive resource. It takes much less time and energy to go get something that’s prepackaged by the organization and preach that.
A third reason, I think, is overbusyness (imposed or voluntary) with things not related to feeding the sheep in a tangible way which leads to laziness.
Too often, it seems, there are so many other things – more fun, more exciting, more tantilizing, more interesting – other than the word of God that take up the time and attention of many ministry. So they forfeit their primary duty and take the easy way out by depending on what someone else has written about.
Still another reason is the tendency toward idolatry and the exaltation of humans within the corporate church organizations where if “XYZ” said or wrote something, then it’s equal to the word of God and it can be substituted for the word of God. We hear it too often for this not to be a factor.
And a final factor (this is not an exhaustive list, but these are certainly the most prevalent) is that the ekklesia, in general, is more easily distracted with technology (in and out of services), preoccupied with other things, and is more impatient to undertake a deep and extensive study of God’s word. We want quick and easy so we can check going to services off our list and then get on with the rest of our lives.
The whole scenario makes me sad. The ekklesia, for the most part, is not prioritizing Bible study in their lives. There exist a lot of personal and individual famines of the hearing of God’s word within the ekklesia.
How do I know that? At times it seems like I’m only one of a minority of the ekklesia who even recognize this is what’s happening. Even more sad, though, is that among those who recognize it, I seem to be among even fewer who are brokenhearted, mournful, and outraged by it.
If we were all eating fully of the word of God daily, then we would all immediately recognize the famine we are often experiencing in services. Because we’re all not doing that, the famine, which exists for us personally, seems normal congregationally.
I certainly pray about this a lot. I tend to be pragmatic, realizing that God said this would happen and realizing that He’s allowing it within His will, but it doesn’t mean I don’t mourn because of it and pray for change.