When God says go and the church said no
Moses receives a message from God. “Send out spies to recon the land I am giving you.” Moses calls 12 men from each tribe and sends them into Canaan to gauge the power and strength of those who live there. After 40 days, the spies return and report on their findings. It is a land flowing with milk and honey. The fruit is plentiful and abundant. But the inhabitants are strong and well defended. The only voice that stands opposed is Caleb, the representative of Judah.
The people are now filled with hesitation. They have wandered from Egypt, through the sea, to the Mt. Sinai, and now to the borders of the land promised. But they look back and consider where they have come from better than what lies before. The enemy is greater. The land can’t be that good. What seems to be the better choice is returning to slavery.
God has told them to “Go”. They were told to go from there houses in Goshen. They were told to go through the dry passage between the walls of the sea. They were told to go to Mt. Sinai to meet God. They were told to move toward the land promised. Go gave them the Go-ahead. Whatever stood before them could not counter God’s permission and God’s directive: Go!
The Church has been told to go. Nothing has ever overruled the commission that Jesus Christ gave the disciples of the early church. Go into all the world. Go and teach my words. Go and witness to me. Go and baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus says “Go” and the Church was born.
But going requires a willingness to go. It is no exaggeration to claim that the American Church experience of the last 100 years has been one of “come”. Come and hear the music. Come and hear the preacher. Come and join the fellowship. Come and find a family atmosphere. The American Church stopped going beyond its walls and began to call out to the community, “Come and find us.”
God’s response to the Israelite people was to heap curses upon them. The generation that left Egypt would never see the land promised to them. Their children would walk into the land and receive the promise that had been their parents and grandparents. And the voices of fear, the spies who said the people didn’t have a chance, would disappear then and there.
This part is the hard part to hear.
What if those curses are still active?
The American Church has been looking at its declining numbers. It is seeing most of its churches growing old with little influence of younger generations. We are watching those churches of older folks close with increasing numbers every year. God’s curse is coming upon us. The statistic demise of the American Church is a consequence of a “come and find us” mentality. God said to go out into the world, the community, and declare the good news of the Kingdom of God present among the citizens. That was not a message to drop leaflets with the address of the church and the times of worship or the vacation Bible school or the Christmas program with the kiddies. The message was one of “how can we help you live into a better, more abundant, life.”
The American Church is dying off because it sits in fear of the inhabitants of the land. It worries that they will be persecuted. It is filled with anxiety that there is no hope for this “sinful” generation that gets worse year by year. It has become convinced that culture has turned against Christianity and has rejected them. It has judged that culture has nothing holy within and deserves to lead itself to its own ruin.
But that isn’t what God said to the Israelite's. God said, “I have given you this land.” God has said to the disciples, “Go and make more disciples.” God has said to the American Church, “Go!” and the American Church has said, “No.”