“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.” (Gen. 1:1-2 NET)
My son Jack loves to build with Legos. We buy him Lego kits deliberately packaged out of order and messy by the manufacturer and he builds something from nothing (according to the instructions). The box has a picture of whatever Lego hopes you will build and it is pretty cool to watch him build it. My favorite thing to watch him do though is build without instructions something completely from his imagination… something completely him. I was meditating on this passage (Gen 1:1-2) this morning and thinking that perhaps The Spirit of God is not as evident in my ministry today because I am too busy plotting and building stuff (theologies, programs, memberships, buildings) without him. Perhaps I am trying to build a ministry like the one on the cover of a box somewhere. I read Genesis 1:1-2and think to myself that new and genuine things seem to happen within a church body when The Spirit builds. I think God moves in ways unique to His people’s culture, situations and needs. He hovers over our congregations waiting for need… waiting for formlessness… waiting for chaos…work. Perhaps on Sunday there is no hovering because there is no chaos, formlessness or messiness. Perhaps I am thinking along the lines of the movie Field of Dreams… “If I build it he will come”.
He breathes life into nothingness. I like that. So after my devotions this morning I must confess to three things I hate as a pastor that God is teaching me to trust Him on…
1. I hate darkness…
I do not like a sense of dark godlessness, hopelessness and lightlessness that can seem to come over a congregation any given Sunday. I have seen it in every church that I have been a part of. The bickering, complaining, destructive criticism bitterness and frowns that accompany the celebration of His resurrection are almost too much for me to bear sometimes. This may be something that rural pastors deal with and see on a more personal and regular basis I am not sure. It is as if the sheep are being wooed by another shepherd other than our Lord Jesus. As a pastor there are some Sundays where I sense such a lack of light in and among Gods people that the darkness is almost bone chilling. I hate darkness and I always want to do something to stop it or fix it… but I am one man armed with a squirt gun fighting against an inferno of spiritual wickedness in places too high and too hot for me.
I am reminded this morning that His Spirit is to be prayed for, sought out and desired by me in prayer for the people that God has called me to. I must intercede on their behalf for The Spirit to move over our darkness and bring light. I am reminded of our savior’s resplendence and I am comforted.
2. I hate shapelessness…
Deuteronomy 27:5–7 says… “And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.” ESV
When I think of shapelessness it bothers me. I hate it… I love symmetry and form.
I am reminded this morning that as a pastor I need to avoid the urge to hand form our worship. I need to resist the urge to make Christ into my image… our image. I must let Him be in the image that God has made him to be. Mark’s suffering servant must be our suffering servant… no exegetical chisels… just Jesus uncut and whole… The Stone of offense the Stone of Help.
3. I hate emptiness…
I led worship almost every Sunday for about ten years and all I wanted to do was fill stuff with noise out of a fear of emptiness. I am learning now what silence can do. The absence of noise is becoming louder to me. I am seeing emptiness as opportunity for God to move, fill and speak.
I am reminded this morning that my job requirement as a pastor is not to fill empty places. Filling is a work of The Spirit.
So, in a way “order” can be too messy for God and in a way He is The God of darkness, shapelessness and emptiness. A messy church can be one of opportunity for The Spirit of God to build something for His glory from His imagination… a church He is actually the God of.