I recently read about this mill in an online article. From the very first day it opened in 1874, to the day it closed 80 years later, the Balmoral Grist Mill near Tatamagouche was powered by a pair of hydraulic turbines. That is irrefutable. When the mill was renovated and converted to a museum, someone, for reasons unknown, decided it needed a faux waterwheel. It wasn’t attached to the mill’s machinery and for decades it spun pointlessly, looking quaint, nostalgic, and having absolutely no reason to be there.
The famous architect Louis Sullivan coined the almost equally famous phrase; “Form follows function.” The wheel had form. It definitely had no function.
In Matthew 23:5-7, and 27-28, Jesus says about the Pharisees, "“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Form follows function. I love that. The church/christian always struggles with form vs function. We have some beautiful places of worship that are museums of a past that is no longer present, a purpose that is no longer evident, and a function that is no longer functioning. For many churches, we have lost our reason for being.
Leonard Ravenhill said, “The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural.”
In Why Revival Tarries, he wrote, “There are three persons living in each of us: the one we think we are, the one other people think we are, and the one God knows we are.”
According to Rick Warren, there are 5 purposes for the church, worship, fellowship, teaching, mission, and ministry. There's a lot to be said about all of those and a lot that has been said. All good and all worth pursuing. Knowing and being are two different things, however, and like the Pharisees, we can know a lot but still be full of things that are dead and lifeless. We have more how to's, webinars, blogs, coaches, seminars, and ideas floating around on the internet about ways to do church better, to break growth barriers, to have better systems, and solve all our problems then we've ever had. Sometimes I feel what the writer of Ecclesiastes feels when he says, "let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out."
I'm being somewhat facetious. Everyone has ideas, and many of them are good and helpful. But I like the simplicity of what God says to Solomon at the dedication of the temple in 2 Chron. 7:14. The context is a response to Solomon's prayer about what God would do when His people (Israel) turned away from Him but then began to call on God again. God says, "Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place." While this is about Israel, it is a good lesson for us as well. God is faithful to His Word. When we turn to Him in repentance, prayer, and obedience, God hears, He forgives, and He restores.
Before we can ever carry out the purpose of the church in worship, fellowship, teaching, ministry and mission, we must be renewed and revived with the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is no accident that Jesus instructed the disciples that they would need to wait before they left Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were given power to carry out the mission of Christ. The identity of the church from the very beginning was rooted in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation of the disciples from confused and uncertain to bold and confident and the explosive growth of the early church in the face of persecution and threats to their lives shows what happens when we allow form to follow function.
The church is not built by programs and structures that we design, but by the power of the gospel through the enablement of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers who are living testimonies of Jesus! You will be my witnesses is not about the four spiritual laws or some other guide or help to sharing the gospel. They, along with any other helps, guides, and programs are all beneficial, but they are not the function, they are the form!
The function is the presence, power, and work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul tells the Corinthian believers in chapter 2, he didn’t use "lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God."
What are we trusting in, if anything? Is there a real purpose for our lives? Are we just like the faux waterwheel, living aimlessly, looking good, quaint, and full of nostalgia, but having absolutely no reason for being here?
Or are we finding the paths of renewal and revival, of healing and restoration, of fresh vision and fresh power?
God is able through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think!
But we must believe! Heb. 11:6 "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him."
We need to seek God in prayer! We need to seek God through His Word! We need to seek God through worship!
We need to wait on God, understanding that it is not by force or by strength, not by our talents and smarts, that the gospel will be effective, but it is by the Spirit of God!
I'll end with two quotes, one from the late David Wilkerson, and one from Pope Francis which I thought was interesting:
“When you strip it of everything else, Pentecost stands for power and life. That's what came into the church when the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost.”
As we continue in our present circumstances, let me invite you to take time each day to seek God through a time of personal worship, prayer, and reading His Word. As you do, pray for personal renewal in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, for a stirring in your life that makes you uncomfortable, and for revival in our area. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to work through your words and actions, through your life each day with family, friends, and those around you. Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to give you boldness to speak about what Jesus has done in your life and can do in others' lives. Pray for miracles to happen in people that you know need something that only God can give.
Especially, take Thursdays to spend some extra time praying and seeking God. Pray for our leaders and front-line workers. Pray for those who have Covid-19, and those who are grieving. Pray for our police and families that have lost loved ones in the tragedy that took place in our province. Pray for our province. Pray for your pastors, leaders, our seniors, and our church family. Pray for an easing of restrictions in due time that would happen safely and for a recovery of our economy. A link to Pray Nova Scotia is below. Remember to join us through our webpage or Facebook page on Sunday for our Kids Connection Online at 10 am and our Kingsway Online at 10:30 am.
Have a blessed day!