Every Flintstone cartoon ended the same. After a slab of prehistoric ribs was set on the Flintstone's car, causing it to tip over, the family would make their way to their boulder-home. Once they were inside their rocky residence, Fred would reappear on the front porch to set out an empty milk bottle.*
Fred would then go back inside the house, pick up the kitty (a saber tooth tiger), and toss it outside. As soon as Fred slammed the door shut, the kitty would go back inside the house by jumping through an open window. Then the door would open, the kitty would have Fred by the collar, and would toss him outside and shut the door.
The final scene was always the same. Fred was left outside his own house, banging on the door, yelling, "Wilmaaaaaaa!"
Why I remember the vivid details of childhood cartoons but couldn't tell you the first thing that happened at the Battle of Bull Run is beyond me. But let's stay focused.
That final Flintstone clip is the picture I want us to see. Fred. Outside his own home. Banging on the door. Tossed out by the family pet.
Do you see the sad irony? It's Fred's house. He's the owner. He's the provider. He works in the rock quarry day in and day out to make a living and provide for his family. He's the man of the house. The slab of rock that has "Mortgage" chiseled at the top and "Signature" chiseled at the bottom has Fred's "X" inscribed into it.
If it weren't for Fred, that cat would be Teradactyl food. But the cat is cozy inside the house of Fred and Fred is left outside his own home.
Now turn to the Book of Revelation. The second and third chapters of Revelation are messages from God to seven churches. God, the Creator, Owner, Founder, and Provider of the church writes these words to the church of Laodicea: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock..."
What? God is standing outside His own house...knocking. God wants in. That disturbs me. The Church is God's own special people, redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Is it possible that we could go on with "church" in cozy kitten-like comfort without God?
Yes, it is. I've been in churches all my life. Before it was ever an occupational hazard, it was an occupational hazard by proxy. Not only am I a preacher, but I'm a son of a preacher. I've always been in church. I love the church. But I've seen enough churches to know that God isn't always inside. At least not in any discernible way.
If you sense the presence and power of God in the church you attend, then thank and praise God for it. I do...every day. In far too many churches, His absence is overwhelmingly noticeable. God often seems like a visitor, an occasional guest, or an inactive member.
God should be the most active member of the church.
What hinders God's activity? What keeps God knocking on the outside of the church? Disunity. Corporate sin. Pride. Unauthorized revisions of His authorized revelation. I'm sure the list is longer, but these are the main reasons.
The better question is: What encourages God's activity? It is so simple. Just add the word "genuine" to the front of each of the following answers: Prayer, worship, brokenness, honesty, acceptance, forgiveness, unity, ministry, fellowship, brotherly love, proclamation of His Word, and lifting up the name of Jesus.
God also shows up where He's expected and invited. That might be the simplest of solutions for some fellowships.
It should go without saying, but I will. Hasn't He bled enough for us already? Why should He have to bloody His knuckles on the doors of our churches?
Fred had a rock house. God has a house that rocks...if we will let Him in and let Him loose.
*For those born post-1970, it was once common practice for every home to be visited by the milk man in the wee hours of the morning. You could set your empty glass milk containers on the porch at night. In the morning, the milk man would pick up the empties and replace them with fresh, cold milk...so I've read.