This doesn’t sound very romantic or culturally sensitive, but it’s a fact. When Moses takes his famous detour to a burning bush and finally encounters God, the Lord doesn’t reward the old man with benefits: he gives him a job. (Exodus 3: 1 – 15)
I think many of us in church life today have regressed to the smarmiest form of bait-and-switch evangelism. We invite our friends to church, hyping the chance to make new friends or find someone to date. Then there are all those other benefits: good cheer for the down and out, relationship tips for the lonely, great coffee for those in need of caffeine. Behind all this is our hope that one benefit or the other will lead them to God.
But that’s not how it happens in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t heal every sick person in Israel, or feed every hungry mouth, for that matter. The select signs and wonders he performs are geared to raise questions in the minds of all the other people. Christ understands that true worship begins with Mystery. The greatest questions are about God and living water, not emotional urges and financial needs. We are asking for disappointment when consumers come to our churches in search of benefits. (Then most hurry away once again.) Moses begins his worship quest with questions he cannot answer. Why isn’t that bush consumed by those flames? Is that really what an angel looks like? True worship is driven by mystery.
We minimize the power of God when we pass him off as a mere psychologist who can bring closure to the grief-stricken; or a relationship coach who can enhance one’s marriage. And we prepare our friends to behave like immature children: always asking what God can do for us next, never pondering our place in His Grand Design. Benefits are a by-product. The point is God, knowing Him and actually being known by Him.
So it’s significant when God actually calls out to Moses by name. Yes, this indicates He is not a stranger; that he knows this sheep herder who is coming his way. But he doesn’t read the mind of Moses and offer to help him with his anger problem or relieve him of that stinking job tending sheep when he’s been educated in geometry and astronomy back in the palace at Egypt! No, God simply says, “I’ve decided to free my people who are trapped in bondage in Egypt, and I’ve selected you to go and talk to the Pharaoh.”
That’s really what we all need in this world: an eternal Father and and a magnificent mission. Consumers get the goods, but they never accumulate enough possessions or pleasure to fill the hole in each of their hearts. Faith and Purpose do that, and who knows it better than the Creator who designed our souls and our brains, and hardwired us with DNA? Significance follows life-giving relationship and service.
So don’t invite your co-workers and neighbors to worship because it will help them with their melancholy or offer them a short-cut back into the dating scene. Tell them the truth: God is better than the Bomb.com, and church services can be an opportune place to search for Him. Ask them to join you in worship because you sense they’re looking for something valuable, and you suspect the answer to their questions starts with a capital G. And, by the way, there’s great coffee there… if they still need it.
To hear the companion audio message, Take Off Your Shoes, click here.
And lift up the Cross!