As we move through this month (is there any month that feels longer than January?), we are looking at the year stretching out before us. I mentioned it before in this series’ opening blog (Moving Into A New Season: Are You Ready?) and this simple truth remains: the place we start from and the place we end up will not be the same. January 1 and December 31 will be two different vantage points and each will have a different perspective, depending upon how we spent the time in-between.
Looking at the church, I wonder if we could take a minute to consider where we would like to be in this area come December. More specifically, as we think about church (our attendance, involvement and its importance in our lives) where do we make changes in our approach to it? Today’s entry assumes you are already familiar with the idea of the church and God’s establishment of it for His glory and our good. To believe that somehow we get past the need for church, for fellowship, and accountability is dangerous and quite honestly, foolish. I hope that we have agreement in this area so that our discussion makes sense moving forward.
What I believe is a pillar in our lives beyond family (flesh and blood), is the family of God. You and I are adopted into this family as we trust Christ: God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5 Just as a family grows and matures over time, we grow in our faith and move to deeper and deeper levels of commitment. Today might just be a reminder of the mission we are on and some added wind to your sails. But for some, it might be a bit convicting and even poke a little at some comfort zones. I assure you my goal is not to offend, but to uplift and to show why this area is so vital to our walk in Christ.
All that being said, let’s jump into some vision for what I believe 2020 must look like for us as we consider the church.
1. Church is a place to connect with other believers
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25
These points are somewhat a progression of thought. But I don’t want this first idea to be mistaken for something it is not. Hear me out: we do not simply attend church because it is some sort of a social club for people with common interests. It is not that. It was never meant for that. But this word “connect” to me really means a sort of “attachment to” and “branching out from.” Church for us should be a connecting point and a starting place for the new believer. It should be a place of invitation for the seeker, the skeptic and the saint. For anyone, it should feel like home because the Holy Spirit dwells among the people therein.
If church is a place you do not feel connected to, you have to do some evaluating this year. Are you trying to be part of a fellowship that does not embody these ideas (i.e. it’s cliquish and standoffish towards newcomers)? Are you attending regularly enough to go beyond just a first-name basis? Are you taking time to seek further involvement beyond just Sunday morning; other opportunities to “do life” and be invested in others (and them in you)? This is the point at where it gets messy. And if I can speak for men, this is a point where guys do not like to go. But you must ask (men and women), is church enough of a priority in my life in 2020 that I will push beyond my fear and hesitancy and walk in deeper fellowship? It’s worth it.
2. As we grow, we become contributors, no longer consumers only
And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. Hebrews 13:16
In America, we live in a church culture predominated by flashy lights, electrifying worship, and captivating messages. On top of that, you had better have a top-notch kids ministry, over the top youth leaders, explosive Bible studies, captivating outreaches, and every other compelling program in the book. Otherwise, we can always go to the next big thing down the street. Again, hear me out: none of these things are wrong in and of themselves. But I believe they’ve turned Sunday mornings into “an experience” rather than an opportunity. Church is more like a buffet where you choose the best items to add to your plate. In reality, it should be much, much more.
We all have to come to a place where we are hearing God’s heart for us on this. I can’t tell you where you should be ministering within your church, other than the fact that you should. And I hope that phrase is received with the grace that it is typed with. You have abilities, you have offerings, you have gifts and you need to operate within them in the local church. A true mark of maturity is the place at which we desire not just getting filled up by worship on a Sunday. We also get filled up through serving and being His hands and feet. 2020 is a year to evaluate how you and I will grow in this area.
3. We stay on mission with the church
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19,20
When we are connected into and serving the local church, we are in a place where growth is bound to happen. We begin to see the church as God’s means to build His kingdom here on Earth. We partner with other believers in fellowship, resisting the urge to turn inward and shield ourselves from the world. A church that is on fire and passionate for the Lord is not simply seeking to keep the status quo. It is constantly looking for ways to engage the world around and tailor the Gospel message (not change/water it down) to the audience it is trying to reach.
What that looks like for you and I in our respective localities might be a bit different. But the overall mission of the church as laid out in Matthew 28:19,20 is the same. What I hope 2020 looks like for me is a clearer understanding of my church’s vision so that I am on mission with it and onboard with where we are going. In churches all over, many are comfortable remaining spectators only; real ministry must be done by the pastor or church staff or church leadership. No, we must see the vision as it is laid out and be willing to be extensions of the church Body; really of Christ Himself.
There is so much more I could say on a topic that is near to my heart. I’ve been on both sides of church life and ministry. I’ve been on staff and seen how things work from that vantage point. And I’ve been an attendee; taking it all in from the pews. I’d like to say both of those views have given me great perspective and I’ve somehow figured this all out. I haven’t. I still struggle big time making connections, figuring out what my role is, am I effective in it, and on and on. One thing I’ve learned however, is this: God gives immense grace whether you’re the pastor or a pew-sitter. Whether you’re a teacher or a diaper changer. If you’re leading songs or scrubbing toilets. And we all need His grace in any of those areas! Thankfully, His Gospel goes forth despite using imperfect vessels like you and I. Whew, that’s a relief!
Finishing up this Vision 2020 series with a last, but not least blog about the workplace and marketplace. How will we find God’s mission for our lives this year as it relates to this key area? Hope to have to you join me once again.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Other blogs in this series: