One reason there is so little courage in American churches is there’s so little vision.
Seems that the Church has completely forgotten what business its in.
Jesus was not in the religious education and entertainment business. He was not interested in drawing ever-larger crowds to listen to what he had to say.
He was in the Kingdom business.
His Father’s business: establishing and advancing the Kingdom reign and rule of God in the lives of women and men.
And, Jesus was in the people-development business: making mature apprentices of his way of life. His principle method for making disciples was challenge.
Read the Gospels and let yourself see how many times he put his disciples in situations that—in themselves—they were powerless to remedy.
They had to trust God.
So too, in the Book of Acts. Again and again they found themselves in unprecedented crises:
There was no playbook for what to do in any of these scenarios. Trusting God, they lept into the unknown—and kept moving, kept sharing, kept advancing Christ’s mission. And it didn’t often play out perfectly, even when they had God’s mind on what to do.
“…until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” [Eph 4:13 NLT]
Into Christ-like maturity.
In blind pursuit of self-centered indulgence, American culture is galloping as fast and as far as possible away from the Savior—her Savior.
As she does, her anxiety grows. And, as Edwin Friedman pointed out in A Failure of Nerve, as America becomes increasingly anxious, the least mature in society set the agenda.
It is the Church of Jesus Christ—alive, awake, and influential—that is the only hope for a nation bent on its own destruction.
This vision has captured my heart. Jesus’ Church, alive, awake, and influential. Mobilized to advance God’s Kingdom in our neighborhoods, communities, and cities. Congregations demonstrating Good News among the unchurched—regularly, generously, personally, and unconditionally. Evidencing the hope we have until people are compelled to ask us why.
Vision part two.doc
This is not to suggest that you aren’t busy. No, ministers are among those who can be overwhelmingly active and profoundly unproductive at the same time.
Postured to bunt, you desperately drive from hospital room to committee meeting, from one religious function to the next.
Are lives changing? Can’t tell.
Are those outside the Church coming toward Jesus via the loving example of your members? No way to know.
Your week is jammed with your best attempts to anticipate or respond to the complaints and requests of church members who mistakenly believe that you exist to serve them.
Most of what you do to soothe, comfort, and appease them does just the opposite. It keeps them infantilized.
Study the way Jesus interacted with His followers.
You’ll see that he constantly challenged them to trust God on their own. To experience God’s faithfulness for themselves. Unlike you, Jesus kept putting his disciples into harm’s way! The way your local police and fire academies put perfectly good people in peril for the sake of those they will rescue one day.
See, you and they have forgotten that God has given ministers to equip the people to do the work of Christ’s ministry [Ephesians 4:11] …so that they actually mature. I don’t see a lot of either happening in the lives of most church-goers these days.
To what degree do you challenge your people?
Do you press them to examine and repent of their immaturity, entitlement, and commitments to comfort?
Does your preaching regularly unsettle them?
Do you raise many more questions than you answer?
I don’t see how Christianity can be a part-time pursuit. Can you?
How is it that couples can live together, unmarried, and worship as if the were? How can we cheat on our taxes and pray as if God doesn’t know? How can we hold unforgiveness toward others and not think it undermines our prayers?
When you live “squared off to bunt”, pastor, your parishioners will follow suit. Could society’s sudden pursuit of much that’s contrary to God’s Word be the result of a Church that’s “squared off to bunt” so much of the time?
In 1988, an injured and aging Kirk Gibson hobbled to the plate for the L.A. Dodgers. Though his legs could barely carry him around the base path, he took a mighty cut at the ball…
and made history.
You can, too.
Coaching Distinctions #53
We’re considering the idea that each of us is an invitation. We’re always inviting people toward us. They come for what we offer. Many times, we have no idea what that is.
If not, you might want to re-do your invitation.
So, how do you decide what to invite? The answer lies in what you’re for. Why are you living, breathing, taking up space? Why did God put you on the planet at this moment in history?
It’s absolutely true that you were made to glorify God, through Jesus. And you get to love your family faithfully and establish the way of Christ in your home and relationships. Beyond all that, each of us gets to bring a unique brand of “good” to the world.
Ephesians 2:10 is clear. You’re created in Christ to do good works that God prepared before hand. There’s more to life than working, eating, sleeping, entertaining ourselves, and attending church. As God’s workmanship, you’ve been prepared to bring good that the world around you needs. Knowing what that good is, and who it’s for, you’ll be able to determine the invitation you want to be.
CRM reFocusing developed two workshops to help people do just that. Anchored in the bedrock of Eph 2:10, the Awaken & Activate Workshops provide a step-by-step process to determine God’s unique calling. You’re invited to examine your most influential life experiences.
An inescapable truth is that we’ve all been shaped by our experiences. All of them. Curiously, the painful ones often shape us most powerfully.
Awaken invites an interpretation of those experiences via a biblical view of God. Instead of interpreting your painful past through the lens of a distant, disinterested creator or a punitive, angry monarch, you’re supported to consider that a loving Father, aware of your life experiences, desires that they work for good [Rom 8:28].
- What’ve you learned?
- How’s your character been refined?
- In what ways has God been faithful to you—even through the hardships?
- What goodness has come?
- How’ve the passions, longings furies, and desires of your heart been ignited?
These considerations hold clues about who you’re called to influence and the difference you’re equipped to make in their lives.
Imagine this. In Awaken you realize you care deeply about the impact of job stress on law enforcement professionals, growing up with your mom, a correctional officer. While struggling with alcohol in your teens, you learned a lot about substance abuse. A decade later, you enjoyed satisfaction in the field of counseling. Suddenly, you recognize that training as a substance abuse counselor will allow you to capitalize on your relationships with local police.
You begin to invite them toward health and freedom.
Coaching Distinctions 37.doc