A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
We’re still talking about change, and this one phrase can disrupt your ability to change more than any other. Here it is: But we’ve always done it that way. It can deal a death blow to any efforts you may undertake for change.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that phrase more than once in your life. In fact, you might be guilty of using it a time or two yourself. But what does that phrase really do for you except keep you stuck in the past?
My church just went through a mission and strategy review. Every business and church and really every individual should do that every once in a while. It’s healthy to figure out where you want to go in the next few months or years. What you want to look like by a certain time or what you want to accomplish in a certain span. We all need to examine entities at different levels to make sure our resources are used wisely.
Some in your church and mine will jump up and vigorously fight the process and tell you that God will lead whatever he wants done and we don’t need to make such long term plans. We don’t need to try anything different. We don’t need to waste time and energy thinking about what we should do next month or next year because God will just take us where he wants us to go.
I would argue that God inspired the book of Solomon which instructs us to plan and prepare throughout the book. Jesus talk about the wise builder and the wise king. They planned ahead to avoid disastrous results. God gives us a brain to use, not just to sit in that protective shell of bone and such up nutrients. He expects us to use resources wisely and to do that we need to plan and prepare for the days ahead.
So looking at our mission and vision and strategies to do those things is important. So where am I going with all of this. Well, with every vision for every church or business or person, I would hope it encompasses something larger and grander than the present state of things. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it? If our church has 200 in attendance today, we would like to be reaching another 200 unchurched in a few years, right? We’d like to know that we are making a difference in the community and helping win others to Jesus, right?
But there is a problem. What if over the last ten years we have only grown by two or three people a year? To reach another 200 would take us a hundred years. That seems a little unreasonable, doesn’t it? But that’s the result of doing what we’ve always done. That’s the pattern of the church for the last decade so it will not change unless we do something different. And almost every church across the nation has that same problem, not just my church. That’s why half of the United States citizenry doesn’t claim to adhere to any religious organization. Not just Christian, but any religious organization. We Americans bow to the god of self.
So understand some of those dynamics, there are a few questions a congregation and each member of that congregation must answer truthfully before we can embrace a renewed sense of mission. Just for the sake of argument, we will use a universal mission for all churches that I think all of us can hopefully agree on. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. That’s a very clearly stated, simply worded mission. I think every church could agree, as his followers, our mission, then, is to seek and help save the lost. Before you blast me with the truth that we can’t save anyone. I agree, but as we share the gospel, the Holy Spirit can. The church, you and me, are instruments of God’s saving power. We bring people to him, share the gospel, so he can do his work in them. We are instruments of salvation. We don’t do it, but we help. So for arguments sake, let’s accept that short mission statement for just a moment. We seek and help save the lost.
Here’s the first question. Do you believe God’s word? That might sound like a silly question, but it’s not. The Bible is the foundation for that mission statement. It says Jesus is the only means for our salvation, the only path to heaven. It says there is a heaven and hell. It says every person will end up in eternity in one of those two places based on their acceptance of sacrifice for sin. Those statements are clear. If you believe God’s word to be true, Islam, Buddhism, whatever other path you might take doesn’t get you there. The only path to heaven is through Jesus. So do you really believe God’s word?
The next question is this, do you care about the lost? All hands go up in the air and some wave vigorously. Sure I do. What kind of question is that? Look hard at your church and yourself. Do you really care about the lost? When is the last time you shared what God is doing in your life with an unbeliever? When is the last time you invited an unbeliever to your church? When is the last time you invited an unbeliever to your house? Now chase the money. What percentage of your church budget goes toward reaching unbelievers instead of taking care of the congregation? 50%, 25%, 10%? Did you know the average church spends less than 5% on activities to reach the unchurched? Do we really care about the lost? Should we wonder why the unchurched think we are hypocrites? Ouch.
The next question. Am I willing to sacrifice to win the lost? Jesus said take up our cross and follow him. But what crosses am I talking about? What sacrifices do we have to make to win the lost? Here are some things with which my church leadership and my congregation must struggle over the next months if we are to meet the goals our vision put before us. Remember that phrase we used at the beginning? But we’ve always done it this way.
Well, many of the unchurched in today’s society, even in the Bible belt, have never been inside a church. Hard to believe for those of us who grew up in a church and go there several times a week, but it’s true. We often forget that’s true, but it is. And my church, like many others, maybe yours, doesn’t think about guests. Sure we greet them with a smile and hand them a bulletin, which they call a program, by the way. See, they go to the theater or ball games or other events and get programs, so a bulletin doesn’t mean anything to them. Then they have to ask the embarrassing question of where things are because even though I know the men’s room is just around the corner, there is no sign when you come in that tells you where to take your little boy who has an urgent need after the drive to get here.
Then as the service is about to begin, “Ms. That’s My Seat and You Can Have It” makes visiting family climb over her and her purse and her bag with her giant print Bible, Sunday School literature and gift for her friend to get to the empty seats beside her. The people on either side of family have shades of a smile as they sing “Victory in Jesus”, but give the new family an icy glare when they don’t immediately jump to their feet when the music starts. The last Amen is said and the family exits as soon as they can get past “Ms. That’s My Seat”. No one talks to them. Everyone is already in their own little clumps deciding where they are going for lunch. So will those first time unchurched visitors be back? Would you come back? Do we care about the unchurched or the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice for them?
Maybe we could give up our favorite seat. Maybe we could act like they are visitors to our home and welcome them. Maybe we could show them around and make sure they know where everything is so they don’t have to hunt for things. Maybe we could give them some hints about what is about to happen so they’re not embarrassed as the last people to get it when something changes in the service. Maybe we could at least act like we’re really glad they are with us. Maybe we could make the atmosphere of the church more pleasing and comfortable for guests instead of for us. Maybe we should think like Paul, as he said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Am I willing to sacrifice the music I most enjoy to reach the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice the décor I’ve always thought was most sacred to win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice chatting with my friends for those few minutes after the service to win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice my church language and change bulletins to programs, platforms to stages, foyers to lobbies, and all those words that separate us from unbelievers to help win the lost? Am I willing to sacrifice my routine, my comfort, my time and energy to win the lost?
If the mission is to seek and save the lost, then I have to be willing to do those things. That’s what we are called to do. Jesus said, “Go make disciples.” To do that, I must first be changed by the power of his blood. Then I must change. I cannot do things the way they have always been done and expect the outcome to be different. If I am to meet the call of the Master, I must be willing to sacrifice for him and his kingdom.
Are you ready to throw away the phrase, but we’ve always done it that way. The past is not bad. We can learn from the past and we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water as they say. But also, if we are really want to reach the unchurched, the lost, they will not come to us, we must go to them. And when they walk in our doors, we must be inviting enough for them to stay. Take a look at the place where you worship. I gave you a glimpse of the atmosphere of 95% of all the churches in America. If that glimpse were not true, all of our churches would be overflowing every service. Except for that very small percentage, they are not. Chairs are empty. Parking lots have plenty of space. We do not weep over the millions in our land headed toward an eternity separated from the one who can save them from that destiny.
Are you ready to change? Now is the time.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.