Devotional Day 27 – Authentic Worship

John 2:13-25: His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’ (Psalm 69.9).

Devotion:  My first Sunday at a mega church in a Chicago suburb felt like my friends and I had gone to the Mall.  The parking lot attendants directed us to the closest empty parking stall with professional ease.  Friendly folks pointed us to the closest doors of the building complex.  We entered a long hallway of food courts, coffee stall, and breakfast kiosks.  Signs pointed the direction to restrooms, gymnasiums, child care centers, and the Christian bookstore.  The crowds moved past these enticing eateries toward the auditorium where thousands sat in comfortable theatre seating to sing contemporary songs.  The light show, praise band, and theatrical skits kept our attention focused on the stage.  The speaker was very engaging and entertaining.  Everything was intentionally welcoming and masterfully orchestrated.

However, this mega church experience raised red flags from my Puritan perspective.  Our church leaders never allowed people to sell things in the church.  There were no restaurants, stores, shops, kiosks, or places to buy things at First Church.  When our youth group suggested a bake sale, soup supper, or fundraiser, the leaders quoted Jesus’ words in the Gospel. We were allowed to give things away for free, or ask for a suggested donation, but nothing could be sold in the house of the Lord.   

Did Jesus want to stop fundraising years ago, or was Jesus’ clearing of the Temple motivated more by God the Father’s mission for the world (mission Dei)?  God was not opposed to money in the Temple. God told the people to bring their tithes and offerings for the work of God in the world (i.e., mission). [1]  Money was one of the tools God gave to the church for evangelizing the world.  The issue, I think, was the desire for money had replaced God’s mission desires in the world.  The Spirit was angry because amassing money had replaced the Godly zeal for evangelizing the world.

Image a Sunday morning worship service on the streets of a busy, crowded market.   How could the foreigners God was calling to worship in the Gentile Court hear the Spirit of God with the animals, peddlers, and money changers making insurmountable amounts of noise?  If one or two crying babies disrupt us in contemporary services, imagine hundreds of baby lambs crying for their mothers before the slaughtering house.  Was Jesus angry about selling things because they were a stumbling block to authentic worship and evangelism?  What hinders our friends from entering God’s houses and connecting with God today?  Do we place more emphasis on amassing money in Church endowments than evangelizing the world?   

Prayer:  God our Father, we know you are on a mission to bring all nations to yourself in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.  Remove any stumbling blocks for lost people to worship you in personal, intimate, and authentic ways.  Amen.

Prayer Exercise:  “Pilgrimage,” page 68, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown.  All rights reserved.  

[1] Isaiah 56:6-8

About Dr. Ivan E. Greuter

A native of Nebraska, Ivan accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and experienced a call to the ministry at a young age. He graduated from Kearney Senior High before attending Ottawa University (Kansas) where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He attended Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL to earn a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling (1999) and a Master of Arts in Philosophical Theology (2002). In 2014, Ivan earned a Doctor of Ministry in Missional Spirituality from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. His dissertation: “Searching For God When You Have Lost Your Dogma: The Promise of New Life for an American Baptist Congregation by Increasing Passionate Spirituality through Devotional Consideration of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Natural Church Development.” He served as the senior minister at First Baptist Church of Wood River, Illinois (1999-2006), and Central Baptist Church of Quincy, Illinois (2006-2016) prior to joining the staff at West Side Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Ivan enjoys French cooking, fly fishing, gardening, and playing games with family and friends. Ivan and his wife, Rexanne, live in Topeka with their three children – two daughters and a son.
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