Not long ago I read the story of Elijah following his great victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings. The author of 1 Kings records this:
At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft Whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.1 Kings 19:11–13 (CSB)
I find this instructive because I have spent so much time in churches where we sought to recreate the wind, earthquake, and fire. We want pizzazz in our worship. We want lights and guitar solos and whatever else we can get to make Sunday seem special. We work hard to make the music bold and the preaching catchy and polished. We want to have a huge experience of God on a Sunday morning.
Maybe God is telling us through Elijah’s experience that we are looking for the wrong things and looking in the wrong way to truly find God speaking to us.
Maybe it’s time we step back and instead of following the latest church growth fad, we declare a day of fast for our local church while asking God what he wants us to do. Maybe we unplug the guitars and have a quieter worship experience. Maybe we read the Scripture in our service and do more listening than speaking. Maybe we collectively search the Scriptures for the answers to the problems around us.
Admittedly, I don’t have any definitive answers to what the church in 2021 should look like. I don’t know what any particular congregation should do in response to their situation. But I think I do know that much of what passes for evangelical practice doesn’t seem to be working very well.
Perhaps we are not listening for that whisper that God used to reveal himself to Elijah. It was in the whisper, not the louder, more noticeable events that Elijah heard the voice of God.
Let’s be open to hearing that whisper so that we, individually and collectively, can hear the voice of God to be sure that we are following his lead and not blazing our own trail.