‘rote’ – the use of memory usually with little intelligence; routine or
repetition carried out mechanically or unthinkingly; a joyless sense of order.
It’s disturbing, to say the least, if our Bible knowledge has been imparted according to the above description, ‘by rote’. ‘Rote’ would indicate that we might be capable of talking ‘about’ spiritual things while never living those things ourselves. ‘Rote’ would indicate that we might be capable of reciting Bible verses with not the slightest whiff of personal application. ‘Rote’ would indicate that we might be capable of inviting someone to know the peace and joy found in Jesus while never knowing what that’s like for ourselves. ’Rote’ would indicate that we might be capable of belonging to a church family, attending services, Bible studies, prayer meetings, business meetings, going on community outreaches and even to a foreign mission field, with no assurance that we are passionately loved and wholeheartedly accepted by Jesus. That would be the ultimate, tragic adventure in missing the point!
In part, because this methodology has often been promoted by church leadership, millions and millions of Christians fall into the cringeworthy category of ‘previously-churched’. And does that moniker mean they were only previously loved by Jesus? Or that the previous encounter was less than expected and later abandoned? Or that their deep longings for belonging and intimacy were met with ‘rote’-ness? Or that a sufficient number of previous encounters with ‘followers’ of Jesus were cold, more method than message? Whatever else the statistics point to, they tell the tale of a bankrupt condition, a soulless desert obscuring the invitation to wholeness, to abundance. Perhaps worse, there is a strong possibility that many more millions are still adrift in place, church sleepwalkers, soaking up ‘ambience’ with no living hope of ‘more.’
Contrast that bleak scenario (I know, happy Saturday to you, too!) with the fiery passion of the Apostle Paul as he writes letter after letter to the churches he has planted around the region. His love and devotion and pride in his congregations are evident. His ardent desire that each one know, for her/himself, all that Christ’s inheritance has furnished, virtually shouts from his quill. It is not difficult to picture these small groups listening to his epistles being read aloud to them for the first time, breaking down in grateful tears at being reminded of Paul’s continuing commitment and continuing belief in them and their faith, even in his absence, even in his imprisonment. Look at his stirring prayer for the church in Ephesus (that I’ve personalized for us):
Father, out of your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen us, your Vineyard Church of the Peninsula family. Fill our souls with the power of your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in our hearts. May love be the rich soil where our lives take root. May it be the bedrock where our lives are founded so that together with all of Your people we will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through our entire beings. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. AMEN. Adapted from Eph. 3: 16-21, VOICE
ps Your mission, family, should you decide to accept it, is to read Ephesians 4 in preparation for our time together tomorrow at 10 AM, 4 PM, 6 PM (FYI: this message will not self-destruct in five seconds). PD