While cleaning his attic one afternoon, the pastor of a small church rediscovered a medium-size tent he had purchased years ago. As a result, he considered doing something different for vacation that year. Instead of staying at their usual retreat near a large lake, he convinced his wife that they should head out camping in a tent and travel to different campgrounds across the region. After considerable preparation, their vehicle was fully packed and they hit the road.
The most commonly asked question whenever they checked in at the campgrounds was, “Do you want a site with power (electrical hookups) or with no power (no electricity)?” Being the rustic and frugal type (sites with power cost more), his usual response was that ‘no power’ would be fine. But his wife (who always brought the microwave) would often beat him to it, and insist on a site with power. Not being one to start an argument, especially on vacation, he would always agree and pay the extra amount. After several attempts to impress his wife with his fine outdoor cooking skills over a fire, he concluded that a microwave on hand wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In the end, they had a delightful trip overall, although he conceded that a motel room would probably have been better in the long run, and considered doing this again at some future date.
After they returned home, the pastor began thinking about the “power or no power” question—that churches today are offering the same kind of deal. But the difference is that they don’t ask those who regularly attend which choice they want, because the overseers of the church have already chosen “no power.” Then he considered the multitude of churches that are spiritually in the dark. Sure, the lights are on, the music is playing, and the temperature is adequately controlled—but spiritually there is “no power.”
Why is there no power? How do these churches survive without it? They are operating in their own human power, not the power of God. Most of us are taught that to make it in this world, we have to be strong and powerful. We have to be constantly building up our mind, soul, body, spirit, etc. If we show any signs of weakness, we will be overtaken and dominated by someone else. How often this is seen in the business world, where ‘stepping on someone else’ is necessary in order to get ahead and be considered successful. “Survival of the fittest” is definitely the modern motto!
Yet God would have us do the opposite. He wants us weak so that our strength and power come solely from Him. This means that we are to yield our self-centered life over to Him, similar to the way that children submit to their parents and are dependent on them to provide a way through difficult situations. The Apostle Paul was considered to be one the most powerful men spiritually in the Bible. He wrote that Jesus “…said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 emphasis mine). The power of any body of believers in Christ can only come through God and Christ.
It is good to build ourselves up physically. We need to strengthen our muscles and keep our bodies in shape. When our physical bodies are inactive, we begin to waste away and leave ourselves prone to sickness. But spiritually, our self-centered flesh (the part of us that desires the sinful and godless things of this physical world) needs to surrender and no longer be allowed to control us, so that our spirit can grow strong through Christ. We need to yield ourselves to Him because He must be in control of our lives, not us.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16 emphasis mine).
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 emphasis mine).
When “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is the focal point of the message being proclaimed in the church, then there will be power. The churches with no power have downplayed or rejected what Christ accomplished on the cross. They seek and worship God in their own strength and power. They therefore have “…a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5a emphasis mine). If they preach a crucified Christ instead, they go in the opposite direction of what they have been taught. This makes them appear weak to others. Then they lose their ‘dignified image’ to the sinful and ungodly community around them. In other words, their true colors are exposed—that they are pleasing the world and not God, in order to get ahead. They fully realize that people are not going to give generous sums of money to a church that appears weak and powerless. But God will not honor or bless the works of self or the flesh. This is what happens when a church tries to win the favor of the world.
A church that has no power leaves those who attend with no power to overcome bondage. Only belief in Jesus and His finished work at the cross can bring true victory. That is where the power is. When a church leader proclaims that we have to work our way to holiness or righteousness ourselves to be in right standing with God, he cancels out all that Christ taught when He was here on earth. Sin continues to control us if we don’t confess it and turn it over to Him. No multi-step programs, secret codes to be unlocked, or special seminars, meetings or retreats will set us free from the oppression of sin. Only by faith in the victory of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross can true freedom be brought into our life, because we then have access to the power we need.
Has your church or fellowship chosen power or no power? Do you leave satisfied in your spirit after each service? Or does emptiness still remain in your heart? Is the finished work of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross proclaimed from the pulpit? Do you know more about the latest events on television or some popular movie than you do about the Bible? Is there a passionate desire to know God more intimately, or another fundraiser or new building program continually? Does your place of worship leave you confident that you are able to take on the world by yourself? Or does it bring you to the altar, knowing that you have no power unless Christ is leading you each day?
If your church or fellowship has lost its power (or never really had it in the first place), seek God to lead you to one that has the power of God. Maybe the power is dimming where you currently attend. Your prayers are greatly needed there. Call upon the Lord on behalf of the church and plead with Him earnestly that they would choose power instead of no power. Impress upon other believers to do the same, and put to flight the efforts of the devil to kill the power of God there completely. Don’t succumb to peer pressure from other members of your church or fellowship and do nothing. There is no power in inertia or tradition. These things should not dominate your actions. A church that chooses the “no power” option yields a congregation that has no spiritual power.