Psalm 80:4-7 (NIV): O Lord God Almighty, how long will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
Many today in the Church, especially in America and Europe, are wondering what has gone wrong. Many church buildings sit empty on Sunday mornings; others are nearly empty – a mere shadow of the former great crowds that moved the people to enlarge their buildings not that long ago. The people have tried new programs, new emphases, new strategies. They have put on name tags and winning smiles at the door. They have altered their doctrinal stands to be more appealing to a larger portion of the community. They have changed their music style, their preaching style, even the way the pastor dresses. But their numbers still dwindle, and the people are left wondering what has gone wrong.
The key element that is missing in most of these congregations is God. Far too many churches today focus on the people in the pew (or the people they wish were in the pew), and they have totally lost track of God’s purpose in bringing them together in the first place: to worship God, to focus on Him, to serve Him, to obey Him. Not to grow their church, but to grow God’s kingdom. Not to be the biggest, most popular congregation, but to be the most Christlike congregation. Not to have the biggest youth group, but to have the biggest impact for the gospel in their community. Until the priorities are straight, God can’t bless any congregation with His presence or His power.
What is needed now in most congregations is not a new program, but a new, crystal clear focus on God and what He has called us to do. Not a new style of worship music, but a new focus on worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Not a loosening of doctrines, but complete obedience to all that God has commanded. Not a new advertizing campaign, or a better web presence, but God’s presence. And that will only come when we, as God’s people, truly repent of what we have made of ourselves. It will only come when the people of a congregation stop wanting more people, and start truly wanting more of God. It will only come when we realize that God is not actually present in our services because the services have been built for the people, instead of to actually worship God.
The prayer God is longing to hear from most of His people right now is this one: Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Only when we turn away from what we have made of ourselves, only when we turn to God in complete surrender, will He revisit us, restore us, and remake us into the Church.
Father, what can I say but forgive us. Do restore us, Lord. Do make Your face to shine upon us once again, so that we may be saved. So that we may become what You want us to be. Help us, even today, to keep our focus on You – completely on You, so that we really can worship You in spirit and in truth. Help us, Lord. Revisit us, Lord, in all of Your power. Restore us, Lord, to be Your people. Remake us, Lord, into Your very image, Your people, Your Church. Amen.