One of the worst, and lasting images I have ever seen is one of hunger, people digging through a landfill looking for something to eat. Tragically, it happens the world over. Although it may not know it, the world is also starving for God, and the life found in a relationship with Jesus. Too many end up picking through society’s junk heap for scraps that will satisfy the inner longings of the soul. The American theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote, “To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate, but He remains personally unknown to the individual” (Tozer’s Classic, The Pursuit of God)
The Church at large, I believe, is facing a similar predicament. We are starving to know God. Tozer used to adamantly proclaim that true spiritual worship “has been lost” in the churches of his day. He further described (in The Pursuit of God) that our worship is but a shadow of what it should be and once was, primarily because we no longer seem to believe that we can actually experience God in our daily lives. “….we have in our hearts organs by means of which we can know God as certainly as we know material things through our familiar five senses…. We apprehend the physical world by exercising the faculties give us for that purpose, and we possess spiritual faculties by means of which we can know God and the spiritual world, if we will obey the Spirit’s urge and begin to use them.”
If The Pew Forum were to survey a broad cross-section of Christian believers, my guess is many, perhaps most, would not acknowledge the possibility of an “actual” relationship with God, nor would they say this idea is being taught in their churches. Are we treading on dangerous ground, as Tozer believed? Recent articles in Christianity Today indicate that evangelical leaders within today’s Church have similar fears, making reference to the common grocery store approach to spirituality – picking and choosing a little bit of this and a little bit of that to fill out what we want to believe, and leaving the rest on the shelves.
After quoting the Scottish theologian William Barclay about the role discipline plays in life (athletics, music, academics), Donald Whitney (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life) wrote, “By neglecting the Spiritual Disciplines we face the danger of bearing little spiritual fruit.” I am not a Church historian but among many changes within the church over the years, there has been an observable decline in the teaching of the spiritual disciplines that once undergirded the Church of yesteryear. Less noticeable spiritual fruit, less draw to the Church as a unique, dynamic place of spiritual zest?
The Spirit of God is ultimately responsible for awakening hunger within the souls of men and women. Without the Spirit’s movement, our churches might hold nothing more than practical atheists…people who profess belief in God but whose lives are unaffected by what they believe. I propose a fast, accompanied by passionate prayer, asking God to enliven His Church. To fill it – and us – with His Spirit, so that the world will look at Christians and once again proclaim that we are “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6)!