God has been speaking to me a lot lately about the complacency of the church and how it so often shirks its responsibilities to the love one another. In fact, regarding the majority of the North American church, God recently gave me Psalms 102:6-7: “I am like an owl in the desert, like a little owl in a far-off wilderness. I lie awake…” In other words, the complacent church has become just like that haunting image of the lonely owl fluttering about in the ruins…but it doesn’t even know it!
And of course we all remember the not-so-nice words that Jesus has to say about the complacent church of Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!” (Rev. 3:17 NET)
Yes, we definitely want to stay away from complacency, but this isn’t speaking specifically to one of us on an individual level, is it? This speaks to the church at large, right?
It was with this thought in my mind one morning that I decided to clean the years of accumulated grease out of the vent over my stove before having my worship and prayer time. I justified this decision by telling myself I would be able to spend quality time with God after the cleaning was done, and in all fairness, I did pray while I cleaned. I even prayed about the apathy and complacency of the church, and as I did, I felt proud of myself. I was “doing my duty” to the church and accomplishing a major task at the same time.
Interestingly, when I did finally sit down for worship, God had some rather stern things to say to me from Ezra 9…
Here we find Ezra the priest down on his knees with torn clothing, pulling the hair out of his uncovered head and his beard, confessing and pleading with God to forgive: “When I heard this, I tore my cloak and my shirt, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down utterly shocked.” (Ezra 9:3 NLT).
What was Ezra’s great sin?
As you read the chapter, you see that Ezra wasn’t actually repenting from anything he, himself had done. He was interceding on behalf of the people: “Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land…” (Ezra 9:1 NLT). And he didn’t just say a quick prayer, either. Ezra 9:5 tells us that he stayed in this position of humility and mourning until evening, and only then did he begin his prayer!
I wonder what Ezra had previously planned for that day? Had he maybe hoped to “clean” his “oven vent”? Whatever it was, he willingly put it aside in order to make the people his new #1 priority. Ezra wasn’t complacent or apathetic; he truly loved the people enough to put their needs before his own plans. I, on the other hand, hadn’t even been able to put aside the oven-vent-cleaning task long enough to have my routine worship and prayer time. I was guilty of putting my oven vent at a place of higher importance in my heart than God and the people He has called me to love and pray for. I was, indeed, guilty of the complacency and apathy I have been praying against….
I realized that day that simply praying against apathy and complacency in the church isn’t enough. In addition, I need to do everything I can to avoid contributing to that complacency.
Do you find yourself falling into this trap? Has your oven vent, or whatever else there is on your to-do list, become more important than those God has asked you to help? If so, then like me, you may have allowed apathy and complacency to creep into your heart. If Ezra loved the people enough to put aside everything he had planned for that day, to tear his clothing and pull out his beard, to confess and pray about a sin that he, himself, hadn’t even committed, then perhaps we should also put aside our to-do lists, including the dirty oven vents, for a few brief minutes, and give our undivided attention to praying for and helping others. Will you join me today in making a personal commitment, not to just pray against complacency in the church, but to love others and care for them the way Ezra cared for the people? If so, I invite you to pray the following prayer with me:
Dear God, forgive us our apathy and our complacency. We repent of our lack of love for one another. We repent that we allow our own agendas to stand in the way of what You would have us to do. We pray that, as part of the world-wide church, we would each “wake up”, that we would put aside our “oven vents” and the other things on our to-do lists, and instead, we would rise up as mighty warriors, intent on being your hands and feet on this earth. In so doing, we will be doing our part to fight against complacency in the church. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen
I do know an excellent, easy way to get the accumulated grease off an oven vent, by the way. I’m happy to share my secret…but only after we have done all that God has placed on our hearts to do!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.