Recently, I was at a funeral – my mom’s funeral. As the lid of the casket closed, two of our former pastors solemnly walked through the doors to greet my sister, who they had come for. I meandered across the room shaking hands, and receiving thoughtful glances as I made my way to greet my old friends. Unknown bridges had been burned in the past, but we had not been the ones to light the fires to them. Once torched, we had sought several times to rebuild, to reconcile, but to no avail.
It had been almost a decade since we last met. As I approached them yet again with a welcoming hug and a greeting of genuine, “It so good to see you,” it felt like I had just hugged an icicle – hard, cold, unresponsive. Not a word was returned.
Later, I wrestled with all my ball of knotted up gut responses in the presence of a trusted friend. With many tears, I talked to Jesus and encountered His presence.
I sought reconciliation still with these pastors. “Jesus, maybe if I just write one more letter. Maybe if I just trying explain one more time where our hearts were, why we left when did, etc., etc.?”
There are only a handful of times that I have seen Jesus truly angry, like turn over the tables in the temple angry. Honestly, in scripture, the only time I read about Him that angry is when He encountered the religious leaders of His day. He never seemed to be mad at the prostitutes, or the sick, or the demon-possessed, or the dishonest tax collectors, or even the Roman dictators. But with the religious leaders He commonly said some scathing comments about them. “White-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bone” would probably qualify as some of those type of comments.
So, I found myself begging for reconciliation with these former pastors to Jesus, who seemed really, really angry. The answer I got was well, not what I expected, but it went way broader than these pastors really fast. In fact, this message is not really about these individuals at all, but they seemed to be representing church leadership in general.
He has repeated this message over the course of the past month and a half, different ways, but over and over again to me. Even this morning, the directive has been to write this down, and share it. There is no desire on my part to throw these particular people under the bus. The reason I mention them at all is for context. For whatever reason, His answer to me was a firm “No,” to seeking further reconciliation. It was more like “It’s time for me to intervene.”
Please understand. I’m not saying any of this as a judgment statement against all churches. In fact, in this engagement with the Lord, I kept feeling like I needed to ask forgiveness because I got them in trouble, which was silly. I hadn’t done anything to cause them pain, though evidently they had thought so. I also quickly realized Jesus’s words were not just directed towards them, but the American Church in general. Also, my family and I do meet in the corporate environment with other believers, and it is wonderful. The following is not meant to be a blanket judgment across the American Church from me. I have a healthy respect for the scripture that says, “Don’t judge, lest you be judged.” I know I miss the mark all the time, so this is just a reiterating of what I have heard that He has been saying this past month, and feel now is the time to share it.
In my mind’s eye, I saw the tip of an huge iceberg floating in the sea, and then the finger of God came and tapped the tip, flipping the entire iceberg upside down, so that huge, immense bottom was now above water and was visible for the world to see. Then, I heard these words.
“Those who have represented my church, who have represented me, in their pride, in their arrogance, who have offered fake fire, and a puny god, who made my kingdom their kingdom, who have made their name great instead of my name, their day of judgment has come. Only the tip of the iceberg has been shown, but I am tipping the iceberg upside down, and the world will see the giant iceberg underneath. It must be done, or the American’s destiny will not be fulfilled.”
“The shaking in the four walls has only begun.”
“Exposure. Exposure. Exposure.”
“You have called for the judgment on the broken in this nation, you have turned your eyes away from the needy, the bleeding. In fact, you have been disgusted by the little, hurt lambs, while instead you have fed the wolves.”
“Enough is enough. The tables are turning. The tables are turning. I will cleanse my house of this witchcraft, of this wickedness.”
“They have misrepresented my heart. They have caused the little ones to stumble . The children cried for a rope to pull them out of the pits, and instead they have offered them a noose. They have brought judgment on themselves.”
“Don’t look to the four walls anymore. Don’t try to be like the old structure at all. Yes, there is some good still there. Yes. I am still using organized churches, but a shift is coming and is already here.”
“Millions have been driven out of buildings, out of the man’s kingdom structures, and into their homes. I am and will pour my spirit out in the homes, businesses, in the street. The enemy won’t contain my spirit behind four walls anymore.”
“On the contrary, my ecklessia will return to her roots, house to house, home to home, family to family, heart to heart. I will build my true ecklessia. Not with bricks, but with living stones, with me only as their chief corner stone.”
Yesterday, I sat in a movie theatre with tears streaming down my cheeks. In front of me on the big screen was a church that had been partly destroyed by the Civil War. The bell tower had been damaged with the bell itself now covered in ashes laying on the floor in the center of the shell shocked nave. “Mama always said that the bell of the church is the voice of the church which rings out hope, but look the church has lost her voice,” said the character in the movie as he looked at the structure. (Paraphrased)
The stark scene reflected the feelings in my heart. “The church has lost her voice,” I repeated in my head. And yet as the movie continued, the scenes changed to later showing the same fallen bell, covered in ashes and snow. As the wind blew across it the words “ New Hope” appeared.
There is no power in a church building unless the Holy Spirit resides there. The traditional church were my mom’s funeral had been held was as empty and cold as my former friend’s hug had been.
How many lost souls have found only condemnation, a list of do’s and don’t’s, a bar too high to jump, a noose to hang themselves on; instead of a rope to be pulled out the dark pit they have fallen into, and a gospel that is empty of good news.
Our Hope has been, is now, and will always be found in Christ alone. “He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.”
In this season of civil war, A New Hope is and will rise out of the ashes of the destruction of former institutions we called church. It will be the true Bride of Christ, the true Church, the true Body of Christ arising with the real Jesus as our leader, our lover, our Bridegroom King. He’s not done with the American Church, but He must clean house, and rebuild His true church to restore Her voice. Only He can do this. It may not look like we think it will, but He can and will have His Bride, His Church.
God truly loves you. He relentlessly is chasing after the rejected ones, the ones who have been judged, ridiculed, and left on the road side to die. He came to seek and save those that are lost.
A great harvest is coming, but they will come because they have met the real, true Jesus who loves them with a love, so pure, so strong, so compelling. Our New Hope is found in the true Jesus alone.
Ironically, when I was a child, my mom used to sing this little song about a bell ringing. “If I had a bell, I’d ring it in the morning. I’d ring it in the evening all over this land. I’d ring out justice. I’d ring out freedom. I’d ring out a love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.” (paraphrased)
Let the bells ring out Hope again!
The movie referenced is “I Heard the Bell” by Sight and Sound Theatre 2022, and the song is “If I Had a Hammer” lyrics © T.R.O. Inc., Tratore/ Songwriters: Lee Hays / Pete Seeger.