Distinguishing between heavenly God and earthly church
• Let’s go deeper. We’re thinking about how we know God in His hidden qualities, by the visible majesty of His creation which is all around us — signposts to what is unseen. So why has our society increasingly turned its back on public affirmation of God in worship?
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Romans 1:20 NLT
The people we mix with in everyday life seem to find plenty of excuses! So, what is the problem.
Part of it is the difficulty people have of distinguishing between God, holy, almighty, unconditionally forgiving and loving — and the church, the assembly of God’s people.
When the assembly looks like another of the world’s institutions with its titles and bureaucracy, resistance to change and lack of transparency, it doesn’t have a family resemblance to what we can see is God-created. If it is showing itself to be man-centred and flawed, covering up its injustices and protecting its own to guard its ￼reputation, this is a mixed message at best.
So people living their lives as best they can, having a sense of God and perhaps praying to Him, are confused. Church services, with their appeals for money and expectations of confirming to their tradition, can seem earth-bound and institutional rather than a window into heaven and God’s fresh guidance for us today.
There is a great variety of worship services and experiences, and the Bible is full of people who came to know God apart from any official expression or recognised route.
People may not be rejecting God but showing themselves able to exercise choices about what is real to them or not. There are plenty of statistics and examples of churches attracting new people and growing, but these are not the traditional, formal and prescriptive traditions. The lesson to be learned is that inflexibility does not honour God, or convince those who are seeking Him.
There are many more choices available to people now, and potential worshippers are becoming more practised in making choices — choices which for them are good choices.