Like so many things in the Kingdom of God, we have a paradox here. Yes, our walk of faith is a process; there is tremendous value in the steps along the way: the relationships with each other and with the Lord, the lessons learned in trials and victories, they joy of worship and of being part of the move of God in a region or in an individual: these are priceless treasures, and clear indications of the value of the journey, apart from the goal at the end. In no way do I intend to devalue that truth in what I am about to say.
But ultimately, we really are working towards a goal. There will come an end to the process – regardless of how valuable that process has been – and our effectiveness at accomplishing the goal will be measured. The goal can be quoted a number of different ways:
Make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
Produce fruit of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:23)
Preach the gospel (Mark 16:15)
Be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
Bring forgiveness to the world (John 20:21-23)
Ultimately, they can all be summarized by a passage in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. It is our job to make this happen:
Some whom I trust would argue that this is not our task to do, but this is our prayer to pray; to them I would answer: do you not expect your prayers to be answered? If you are praying for the expansion of the Kingdom of God on earth, then we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
Others would argue that this responsibility is ours not just to pray about, but to work towards as well, but the same standards apply if they’re right: we should see that the Kingdom expanded on your watch, in your area of influence.
My point is this: There will come a day when we will stand before our Heavenly King, and He will judge us. This is not about heaven or hell: we who believe in
I have the privilege (and I consider it a privilege, an honor) of talking with thousands of people from thousands of churches. One of the things that I hear as I talk with them is the value for the weekly events of the church. I hear the value of “business as usual.”
It seems that there are an awful lot of local congregations that have the “church as a process” value down well: they gather Sunday mornings, talk over coffee afterwards. Midweek, they have the same event that they did last year. Their Easter and Christmas are a little different this year than last, but functionally, they do the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
Please don’t get me wrong. This is not the waste of time and energy that some of the more radical voices among us might imply. These congregations are doing a good job of “shepherding the flock of God” which is not, as the evangelists among us might imply, ignoring the command of God. They are very effective at the “process” part of the paradox.
But many churches, perhaps tens of thousands of them, are succeeding at the process but are not succeeding at the goal. They’re enjoying the fellowship at this week’s coffee hour and this month’s potluck supper, but the kingdom of God is not expanding in their area of responsibility.
Sure, a few more people are attending the church this year, but their community is not more representative of the Kingdom of God this year than it was last year; there are not increasing numbers of people pressing back darkness or similar numbers pressing darkness back more effectively; the dead are not raised, the sick are not healed, and nobody is grieving about it because the fellowship is good, the mortgage on the building is paid, and we’re enjoying the journey.
I’m thankful that we the church have finally begun to learn about the process of the Christian life. Now I’m praying that we’d reach the prize effectively as well.
Let’s go change the world; let's really change it!
2) We feel compelled to tell people we know why we feel this way, to convince them to agree with us.
Leadership by Friendship
We will have some meetings that are about nothing more than maintaining and enjoying the friendship we share.
I'm indebted to Graham Cooke for sparking this idea in me.
I was asked recently why I celebrate holidays - like Christmas and Easter - that are neither illustrated nor commanded in Scripture; does that betray an underlying issue of a disregard for the Word? It made me think.
I do observe celebrations not found in Scripture, and that’s an interesting question. I have an odd worldview, and perhaps an odd view of how Scripture relates to my life, or maybe how I relate to it.
I came to the realization some years ago that if I limited my life to only those things found in Scripture, it would be nearly impossible to live today. I couldn’t use a computer, as computers are not found in Scripture, or a car, or even a refrigerator. I would be limiting myself from using anything made with steel, metal, plastic, computer chips, or anything transported by truck or by air. (Certainly this would have huge implications on my chosen career!)
This led me to the realization that for decades, I have looked at the Scriptures as a guide, not as a rulebook: that in NT times, the Scriptures are a tool to introduce me to a living relationship with a living God who has come to earth as man, that my relationship is with Him, not with His book.
I also realized that the Book has a series of prohibited activities and a number of things that it encourages or commands us (depending on where it’s found in the Book) us to do. I could limit myself to doing only those things that it commanded me to do (such as only celebrating holidays that it talks about), or I could limit myself to avoiding only those things (in deed, in attitude, and in principle) that Scripture instructs me to avoid (which would allow me innumerable celebrations of Him). The difference was huge, and the repercussions of that decision would completely affect my life.
It took me quite a while to come to the conclusion that the way I relate to my heavenly Father is far more about “Yes” than about “No”, and therefore, I should probably assume “Yes” unless He said “no” (in one way or another). I’ve chosen – quite consciously – to say “no” to the things the Scriptures say no to, and to say “yes” to most everything else, with Paul’s limitations in mind (“Not everything is profitable,” and “Don’t make others stumble if you can help it.”).
So I celebrate any chance I get. I was worshipping last night with a gathering of saints, quite contrary to the model in the Scriptures (we used an iPod and a stereo for our worship band). I celebrate Christmas, not as a fertility rite, but as a celebration of my Savior who was God born as man, even though His birth had nothing to do with trees or colored lights or reindeer or fat men in red suits or even (most likely) with winter. I’ll take any reason I can to celebrate Him, and if I can use it as an excuse to draw my unbelieving neighbors into that celebration, that’s even better. (They certainly don’t know how to worship Him “in Spirit and in truth.” Yet.)
But you know what: that’s my belief, my way of relating to a God that is so big that there is no conceivable way I could understand all of Him. I know believers who celebrate mass and go to confession, and believers who change water into wine by prayer for communion every week, believers who choose a lifestyle similar to Bible times, believers who attend a drive-in church outside a crystal cathedral, and believers whose primary fellowship is via the internet. Those are all different than my beliefs, or at least my practices, but they’re still my brothers and sisters. I’ve got a real big family, and even if some of us are kind of quirky, they’re my family and I love ‘em.
If God is the only one who gets to be clothed in glory, then I can sit back and look forward to that day. But if I am designed to carry glory – whether His glory or my own – then these things should happen when I show up as well. Wherever I go, the glory of God goes. Wherever I go, the results of glory should show up: people should be changed, goodness should replace evil.
So here’s the bottom line commission: go forth and splash the glory of God! Go leak glory! Everywhere you go!