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Is it a carnival or church? That question is perhaps asked more often then we imagine.
I am in Corpus Christi, Texas, attending a small conference on spiritual transformation. As I came into town, I noticed a carnival by the bay. I have never cared much for carnivals. My impression of their purpose is to draw people to a low quality show in order to take their money. Yet, perhaps some churches may not exist for any higher aim than that either.
Our conference has been located on a first floor ballroom with open windows. The windows are wonderful at letting us view the sea. They also provide a view for the curious who walk by and gaze into our meeting. I have been wondering what they are thinking. ”
Is it a carnival or a church?”
We who are used to church life become accustomed to worship. In fact, church people often forget how the unchurched view church. Not only do we not understand how they perceive our activity, we become indifferent of their needs in our approach to worship. Why else would Christians insist that lost people come to church if they want God? Or that they like our choice of church furniture, or our pet worship style? Few church people seek to make church a tool to reach the unchurched. When church exists for the benefit of those who attend, those who pass by often wonder what is happening in that gathering that they don’t understand. I wonder if they are always asking: Is it a carnival or church?
It is the same for the Spirit-life. Those who only know life in the human effort look upon spirit-led people as odd folks. By spirit-led, I do not mean people who act out in strange behavior so they may claim a spiritual life. Such are well deserving of a carnival tag. I am referring to people who allow Christ to direct the issues of their lives and know the power to leave sin’s destructive habits. This is the life of spiritual transformation. We know the Holy Spirit gives us this new life. We are guided, directed, and yes, sometimes filled with an inexpressible joy. Yet to those on the outside, it may yet seem still all confusing.
There were people in Jesus’ day who longed for carnival as church. They came to him in crowds to see miracles and to get fed in mass divine out-pourings. Yet, Jesus challenged them as to why they came. In time only the few followed. It seems that carnivals are perhaps more appealing to some than time with God. Sigh, church.

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