He went … to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
—1 Kings 19:8-9
Do you ever wonder what you’re doing here? I do.
The story of the prophet Elijah begins in 1 Kings 17, during the reign of the evil king, Ahab. Ahab adopted the religion of his foreign wife Jezebel, and suppressed the worship of God in Israel. In the next chapter, Elijah sends a message to King Ahab, proposing a contest to prove whose religion is authentic and whose is false. Ahab agrees, and summons all Israel to Mt. Carmel to watch. On Ahab’s side were hundreds of prophets in the cults of Baal and Asherah, pagan deities imported to Israel by Jezebel. On the other side, Elijah. The prophets of Baal spent the whole day crying out for a miracle from Baal. Elijah spent it taunting them with coarse humor, saying they should shout louder, in case Baal was in the bathroom relieving himself. At the end of the day, Elijah offers a single prayer to God, and fire falls from heaven, proving to Israel that God is real and Baal false.
Then, astonishingly, having triumphed over the forces of Baal, Elijah flees into the wilderness to escape from Ahab. It is in the wilderness that Elijah hears this question from God: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9)
“What are you doing here?” Elijah needed to be asked, because he forgot what God was doing and neglected the work God had assigned to him. He had to be asked because what he had achieved for God in the past did not automatically ensure his future success. It’s a good question for churches to ponder, too.
What are we doing? Is it what we ought to be doing? Our Book of Order speaks of “The Six Great Ends of the Church”-proclaiming the gospel, spiritual nurture and fellowship, divine worship, and so forth. Which of those ends are we advancing? Are we neglecting any? Why? Should we be neglecting some of them?
Who are we? What unique experiences has God used to shape who we are? What gifts and talents has God blessed us with? Are we using them effectively to advance the great ends of the church? Who are we becoming? Elijah thought he was the only one in Israel still faithful to God, but God knew there were seven thousand who had not worshiped the Baals. Who is God calling us to reach? How will they become part of us?
What are we doing here? What are we doing here in Yucca Valley? Why has God brought us here? Why are we here now?
Desert Hills has a worthy history of ministry in and to the Morongo Basin. Our history might not be as illustrious as Elijah’s — Elijah was, after all, the greatest prophet in the Old Testament, after Moses, with whom he appeared when Jesus was Transfigured (Mark 9:2-8) — nevertheless, we have been faithful and, I think, effective in our ministry here. Even so, it’s still worth asking these questions about what we’re doing here.
So that’s what we’re going to be doing this summer. We’re going to conduct a study of our church to answer these questions about what we’re doing here.
You’ll be hearing more about this process in the next few weeks. We’ve asked our Presbytery’s Congregational Nurture Team to help us get started. In the meantime, let me invite your prayers as we get this effort underway.
Nobody’s making us do this. But if we go about it prayerfully and sincerely, I’m confident that God will show us the answers to these questions. God will tell us who we are and who he wants us to become. God will make it more apparent why we’ve been brought here to the high desert right now. And God will enable us to discern what we should be doing here.
Let’s talk about it.