I have been back from Ukraine now for two days. Saturday night, after arriving home, I showered and worked out the details for my Sunday and the two services I was to preach and minister at. Then, of course, Sunday was “church”.
The service in my own city was good and God really did bless us with His presence and power – worship touched God’s heart, the teaching was powerful and directly from the heart of God, and then He allowed me to prophesy over two young men in the congregation. Great start to the Lord’s Day. Sad to say that the attendance was dismal. Seriously dismal. Such a contrast to Ukraine.
I know I should not compare but it is hard not to. Here we have everything we could possibly want. We live in relative luxury compared to most of the world. We are safe and protected and have all the modern conveniences that the majority of the world does not have – and we simply take for granted. We have freedom to worship without fear of losing our lives or our lives and livlihood even being threatened. We are seriously blessed and yet we don’t bother to come together with other believers to thank Him and worship the God who blesses us with all this – not to mention the wonderful gift of salvation and a relationship with Him.
This really hit home last night as I taught and lead a small group of people from this same church in evangelism. A monthly class for those who have been trained – to refresh and continue to teach them about telling others Jesus saves. I mentioned to one person that I had missed him on Sunday at worship. He said that he had decided to sleep in. I suggested (rather strongly) that he needed to be with other Christians on Sunday morning worshipping the Lord. He was tired, he said, and decided to sleep in. I forcefully mentioned that I too was tired (16 days of ministry and jet lag) and yet I was there. His answer: you are more disciplined than I am. My response: It has nothing to do with discipline – it has to do with loving God and wanting to be there to express that love in worship as we have been commanded to do. I also mentioned that I was three times his age and if I could do it I did not see any valid reason he couldn’t. The meeting started and the conversation ended.
I thought about it later and again this morning while making some early morning coffee (this jet lag stuff is serious) and realized I had have been a bit quick (and harsh) with my answers in the conversation and so will take him for coffee and chat through what was said and apologize. But, it was such a stark contrast to the young men in Ukraine who are eager and hungry to worship the Lord, put their whole heart and the whole day into the task (without complaining), and still want more coming back day after day to three services a day and taking time off work without pay to do so. And, many here can’t even get to a worship service and give 2 hours to the Lord once a week?
Some who do come just sit and don’t worship or even sing the choruses in a pretense of being involved. They don’t raise their hands. They tolerate the teaching and when they sense it is ending they gather up their sweaters, Bible, and other stuff ready to leave – and God is still doing terrific things and the teaching isn’t even quite finished yet. There is no sign of spiritual life in them. Could be there is no spiritual life in them.
In Ukraine they come for the whole service, are engaged right from the start, put their whole being into the worship, lean forward and suck the anointing out of you while teaching – seriously hungry for the Word. They stay through hours of prophecy over others even if there is no hope or plan for them to receive a word from the Lord during that service. They hang around afterwards and fellowship with one another (not to talk to the guest speaker or receive prayer for a hurt or a need) and even talk about Jesus – sometimes for hours. They are excited about the Lord and His people and what the Lord is doing around the world.
Travelled 260 Km. in the afternoon to another location to teach and minister a second time. This is a normal Sunday for me. But this time, due to jet lag, my son-in-law came with me to drive. I didn’t sleep but it was best not to drive as it gave me a needed rest and I could have a brain misfire without killing myself as the driver taking the car off the road (jet lag affects me that way). The conversation going both ways was great as he is a man hungry for God and willing to serve in any way that he can. He was highly appreciated. We stopped for supper on the return trip and arrived home just slightly after midnight haviong talked about Jesus for over 7 hours total in the return trip.
The second service was okay – it honored God. Worship was good, teaching was still anointed and powerful because God’s Word is always powerful if received – even when the preacher is suffering from jet lag. The people were gracious – and most arrived long after the start of the excellent time of worship. By the time the service ended and I chatted with a fellow jet lag struggler – he had flown in from South Africa with the last leg of his journey being the same flight as mine the night before – everyone was gone. Of course, I immediately thought about how different this is from Ukraine where I left the building one night 1.5 hours after the service ended and there were still 20+ people standing and talking (with no coffee available) about Jesus.
I take full responsibility for the situation in both services as I am one of the main leaders. And, I determined on Monday, as I thought about things, that it is going to change (or I might move to Ukraine where I would find some seriously hungry people). I will not just settle back to a routine that accepts this as a fact of life because it is North America. I want to see God build a church that He would be proud of and willing to attend regularly. I want to see a worship service that answers the question: “God, what would bring you to the edge of Your seat and make You say, ‘Wow! I like their faith'”.