Iíve been waiting for a long time to do the strip below. You might say itís a way of getting something "off my chest" that Iíve been waiting to say until the appropriate time. The Sheepcomics.com site was launched in March of 1999, but I had spent the prior two years designing the main characters and recording story ideas. I waited until now to do this strip because I didnít think it would mean much unless there already existed a set of strips that had established the main characters and the abstract world in which they live.
Ever have a "revelation"? You go through life thinking a certain way about something, and then something happens that changes your entire point of view, perhaps in an instant, and you never think the same way again. This is what happened to me. I donít remember exactly when this "revelation" occurred, but I remember what lead up to it.
On two separate occasions, and in two large and unrelated churches, I listened to preacher explain the extreme importance of attending corporate worship on Sunday morning. I was told that within me there is a "spiritual battery". In one sermon I was likened to a flashlight. The other sermon compared me to a laptop computer. In either case, my "spiritual battery" is within me keeping me "spiritual" somehow. This "battery" is recharged on Sunday morning during the corporate worship experience.
Now, we are not talking about the Holy Spirit. We are talking here about some sort of metaphysical power source that supposedly exists within Christians. It runs down during the week as we live our day-to-day lives. It can only be recharged by attending worship on Sunday morning. So, it follows that if someone misses the Sunday morning worship experience, their "spiritual battery" will run down completely, presumably with dire consequences.
The first time I heard this teaching (when I was a flashlight) I donít remember thinking much of it. Not too long after the second time (when I was a laptop computer) I had my little "revelation". I started thinking "Why would a leader in a Christian church teach something like this?" Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the Bible should realize that that there is nothing in the scriptures about a spiritual power source that is continually being drained and can only be renewed by attending "corporate worship". In fact, the phrase "corporate worship" isnít in the Bible either. Further, the word "worship" is never used in the New Testament to describe Christian assemblies.
So why would a Christian leader preach something like this? Why would someone whose job it is to tell the truth get up in front of a whole church full of people and teach a complete fabrication with a straight face? I pondered this for a while, and then had my "revelation". My revelation, the thought that had never quite crystallized in my mind before, was as follows.
This church is a business. It produces a product called "corporate worship". It wants me addicted to that product, and it wants me to think I canít survive without that product.
I know this sounds a bit harsh. I donít believe this is true of all churches everywhere, but this is what I began thinking after I thought through the ramifications of this "spiritual battery" teaching.
What are the ramifications of this teaching? What does it really say?
First, it denies the individual Christian the benefits we are supposed to receive, in this life, of being in a covenant relationship with God.
Paul says in Philippians 4 that we can overcome being anxious about our life by presenting our requests directly to God, and that a peace "which transcends all understanding" will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Thatís the closest thing I can find to a "spiritual recharge" in the New Testament, and itís something we can do as individuals whenever we want to.
Paul also says in Romans 8:15 and Galations 4:6 that we have the spirit of "sonship". We who have obeyed the gospel by repenting and being baptized can call the living God "Abba, Father". This sounds to me like something far greater than some mystical "spiritual battery" that runs down to nothing in one week if not recharged by consuming the product of a church corporation.
Second, the church controls access to God. The church corporation becomes the "spiritual filling station" that one must deal with to be spiritual at all. Remember, that "spiritual battery" runs down in exactly one week. You canít do anything by your self to recharge it. You must go to that building and "worship" the way youíre told to or you will soon find yourself with a dead "spiritual battery".
Third, this creates a mentality of learned helplessness. Not only must I have a corporate worship experience every Sunday, but the implication is that I am utterly powerless on my own. (Or, should I say, I canít derive any strength from God by appealing directly to Him during my day-to-day life.)
Fourth, not only does this "spiritual battery" not exist, but the advertising claims made for the "recharging mechanism" seem a little exaggerated when compared to my actual results. To me, "corporate worship" in a large "happening" church consists of 1) walking into a huge building with hundreds (if not thousands) of others, 2) sitting through about 40 minutes of musical entertainment in the guise of "worship", 3) listening to a speech, and 4) going home.
This doesnít seem to "recharge" me very much. Why should it? Is there any place in the New Testament where spiritual power is attached to simply listening to music or listening to someone preach? Doesnít the power come from how we act on what we hear? In the New Testament, it looks like Christians assembled together to share with each other, not sit through a performance staged by professional "worship leaders". Try to find "worship leader" in the New Testament. Let me know where you find it because I havenít found it yet.
In summery, I decided that the "spiritual battery" is a non-existent device fabricated by a business that wants me hooked on a product that doesnít work. You may say Iím cynical, but I wasnít the one who invented the "spiritual battery".
There, it's off my chest. Now I feel better, and the comic should be mostly loaded by now.