I recently had a conversation with a friend who was complaining about the church they went to. Their complaint had nothing to do with what the church had or was doing. It was not with the other church members, leaders, or pastor. It wasn't based on how the church served the community. The complaint was in regards to what the church didn't have. There was an aspect my friend felt was missing, and because of it he was feeling compelled to leave the church. You could tell in his conversation about what was missing he was communicating in a way that was creating distance between him and ownership of the church.
I thought I would try an experiment on him (I didn't tell him this...) I shifted gears and asked him about how the church served the community. Instantly he began to brag about his church and how well they serve, and who they serve, and how often. There was ownership in the church when he was proud of the church. If he could brag about it, then he was part of it. I even asked him to tell me about a time when he specifically served. Well....he didn't actually do any of the serving himself, but his church did!
Interesting...What is sad is that unfortunately too many christians are my friend. There story is my friends story. What's even sadder is that normally the conversation is followed up with the "I Wish I Would Experience God More" statement.
I thought I would challenge my friend with one more brain stumping question. I asked him why didn't he step up and fill the void he saw in the church? Why didn't he step up and fill the lack? His response was the A typical Christian response..."I don't feel called to."
The amazing thing about a calling....EVERY CHRISTIAN IS CALLED TO! God has a message and is looking for a messenger. He issues his message to us and equips us as believers with the whole power of Christ. The same power the bible say's we have to "raise the dead! What we do is minimize the power of Christ in our lives and maximize the power of Christ in others lives as they serve well.
This is how it plays out on Sundays... The pastor proclaims a need to the church. The kids area is overflowing with children and the church needs more teachers. He says there will be a sign up sheet in the back. You feel a little tug on your heart. But then tell yourself you need a break from your kids. Thank God you can just drop them off at church on Sundays and relay on someone else faith to teach your kids faith. You walk past the sign up sheet, your heart tugging but you tell yourself that your not called to teach kids. That is best left for someone else who is more qualified, or called to kids. When the pastor issues a need for someone to scrap book for the church you will answer that call willingly because you enjoy scrapbooking..but until then you will just sit and listen to the message each Sunday and continue to seek God because you want to experience him more. Sound familiar...this may be you!
(Here is what the pastor is thinking but can come right our and say to the church...) Helping future generations learn Jesus, who will one day impact the world for Jesus isn't something you feel called to. Are you smoking something? There is no possible way you could ever experience Jesus as the kids experience him. I wonder what Rick Warren, Billy Graham, or for the younger group reading this...Steven Furtick's sunday school teachers must be feeling and experiencing about the power of God as they had a hand in these mens live who now impact millions around the world. But no...thats not you because you don't feel called to... What WOULD it take for you to experience God more? (This is what the pastor is thinking and feeling.)
I believe we as Christians throw around the term "calling" too loosely without fully understanding it. There is only three parts to a calling you have to grasp.
1. Opportunity. Is there a specific place or need you can make a difference. Is it serving, could it be financially? Do you see a need? No matter what the need is, the need itself is an opportunity for you! There is no church need that is too great or too small. If the church needs anything, consider that an opportunity for you to meet Jesus himself at the alter. Know that the need to be filled and the opportunity is because of divine timing.
2. Ability. Are you competent enough to fill the need. Do you believe that the Jesus residing inside of you is competent enough to give you the ability to fill the need? When you doubt your ability as a Christian to fill a church need, what you are really doubting is the power of Jesus in your life.
3. Desire. Do you desire to experience God more? If so... that is all the desire you need to fill a need in the church. No need is to small or too large if you desire to experience God. What if stroking a larger than normal check one sunday and writing the need in the memo line helped to catapult the church to a new level of reaching even more people for Jesus? What if stepping up and serving in the kids area opened the door for a kids revival in your church?
The bible is more of a book about receiving than it is about giving. God want you to receive more him like you never have before. My heart is that as you read this, you begin to understand that you are empowered, you are equipped, and you are called to. In realizing this you are opening up your hands and heart to receive more of God.
I was recently reminded by God that the church, his church, is his bride. He is the bridegroom, who gave his life for her and is the head of her. I have read and heard this a thousands time before, this time was different tough.
I really spent some time praying in my spirit about the bride part. I reflected back on my own wedding day, my bride, and how after the wedding day my bride became my wife. The difference being that my wife has never looked as stunningly beautiful as she did our wedding day. Now don't read into this what is not there. I think my wife is beautiful and she takes care of herself and is intentional about dolling herself up with makeup, and doing her hair and everything else a woman does to make self look beautiful. However, there is no comparison to the level of intentionality, focus to every little detail, & the desire for everything to be absolutely perfect as there was on our wedding day.
Like all brides getting ready for her wedding, everything has to be perfect and just right. Nothing out of place, everything matching to set the mood just right. The flowers, candles, table setting, pictures, aisle, the stage, every detail carefully and intentionally reviewed and re-reviewed to ensure a perfect unforgettable day, a day to be remembered forever. The bride will go out of her way spending countless hundreds if not thousands of hours planning her wedding day. Many a bride has planned her wedding day years before she ever even met her husband. From childhood, she played with barbie and ken imagining her own wedding day.
There is is something to be said about the wedding day. There is also something to be said about the difference in intentionality between a bride and a wife. This plays into the church. It's easy for the church to forget we are the bride on our wedding day. We become settled in our attitude, we loose that edge of intentionality and begin to allow corners to be cut. Our focus of everything being perfect, to creating the right environment for an unforgettable experience dwindles with each passing Sunday. Little by little our hearts become less concerned about creating an unforgettable experience on Sunday, and we become more concerned about just simply getting through Sunday.
Our attitude every Sunday should be one that is dressing for the occasion. Every detail checked and re-chekced. If extra effort is needed, extra time is needed, extra anything needed, to create the perfect unforgettable experience then let it be done. Truly the church's job sunday is really that of the wedding planner. It is our job to create the perfect wedding day for the lost that may come to church to walk the aisle and find Jesus standing at the alter waiting for them. Our job is the create to the perfect wedding day for the lost.
Next time you are at a church, look around and ask yourself...is this church doing all that it can, focused on every little detail, desiring everything to be perfect, am I serving with the right attitude, the right desire, the right intentionality....for someone like me to walk through the doors of this house who may not know Jesus to get married today.
Am I dressing for the occasion.
Do you _____________________(fill in the blank) take this ________________(fill in your spouses name) to be your _________________(fill in your spouses role) to love them, to honor them ...For better or for worse...for richer or for poorer...in sickness and in health...By power vested with the authority of God I now pronounce you husband and wife. . Beautiful vows! It's the best part of the entire wedding ceremony. We go through so much just to get the point of saying those vows to our loved one.
The thing about our wedding day is that it is one of the happiest days of our lives. There is an excitement in the air about a new beginning, about starting with a clean slate in the relationship and in the eyes of God. Everything that happened prior to the marriage was before you were all in....committed with 100% of who you are in front of the world and in the front of God. There is something amazing about seeing your spouse either standing at the alter waiting for you, or walking down the aisle looking like an angel that just stepped right our of heaven. Remember what you were thinking right at that moment. I do! I remember thinking I am the luckiest person in the whole world. God loved me enough to give me my spouse. I remember thinking I am going to be the best husband a wife could want. I am going to treat her like a queen.
Sometimes I reflect on that day as I face trials in my marriage. Not everyday is fun when being married. There are some really hard days where tensions are high, the enemy is attacking and honestly the feeling of why bother, or I quit is trying to fight it's way in. Maybe you have felt this way. Maybe you are feeling this way now.
Just this morning my wife and I were talking about our wedding vows. I don't ever recall committing to God leave my wife when is she sick, or when she is worse, or poorer. I made a decision with my life to God and my wife. To love her and honor her when she is worse, when she is sick and when she is poor. It is during those down times that my love, and honor to her and God has an opportunity to shine the brightest. The decision I have to make in reality is actually an attitude one. My attitude drives my character and my character drives my actions. If my attitude towards my spouse during the down times is "peace out" then my character and my actions clearly show me as a liar and person who gets going when the times get tough.
Its is during those tough times I may possible miss out on the greatest acts of God in my marriage if my attitude is not on point. I can't control my spouse (as much as I would love to sometimes) but I can control ME. I can control my attitude and my faith to see and experience God move in my marriage. I have learned a wonderful thing about the tough times in my marriage. When I feel like I am on empty, and nothing left in my spirit to give, and I keep my attitude focused on looking up and searching for God more, it is then that God steps in with an infinite reserve tank. I experience him in a fresh ways as I learn to rely on him and trust him as he honors the marriage vows.
I have come to learn that God wants you to have a great marriage. He is willing to step in and fight your marriage and he never gives up. His attitude never changes. His love never stops. He offers a hope that only he alone can offer when you feel like you are done. All you have to do is look up instead of looking down.
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by what God was doing around you that you felt like you couldn't do anything? There is a story of a prophet named Amos who felt this way. Imagine how overwhelmed Amos must have as God had threatened to annihilate Israel (Amos 7:1-6) He had already warned the people of judgement, now it had arrived. What could he, one man do?
The only thing he could do was to beg God to forgive. Amos prayed for his people with compassion and honesty. Tiny Israel, he said, "would not survive judgement." Twice Amos, interceded and twice God withdrew His judgement. Amos stepped in between the people and God, and negotiated their survival.
Prayer changes things. Amos shows us what to do with impossible problems. Of course, prayer doesn't take the place of solid leadership; Amos continued to perform his job of truth telling to the people . Yet he reminds us how powerful our prayers can be in the face of trouble. Sometimes we have no idea what kind of changes we orchestrate or what kind of pain we spare others by what we do in our prayer closet!
This weekend at Reaction Church was easily one of the top three services in our history. Pastor Bill Davis brought home the word and especially prophecy on a level I have never experienced before. During his message he spoke about who we get our validation from and that your why determines our how long. He also brought up Revelation 19:10. "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Pastor Bill encouraged us to never forget the prophecy of Jesus and to let our testimony be the driving force of the church. For us to stay focused on the rain and not the shoveling. As the pastor of Reaction Church I must confess that his message cut me to the core. It's hard to focus on the rain when you can't see the rain. It's hard to focus on the rain when the skies are blue and you ache from the shoveling. I found myself meditating on his message most of the night. Asking myself what am I leading Reaction Church to focus on?
If I am honest with myself, the church, and God....I have struggled with the flesh prevailing over the spirit. I have found myself focusing on keeping up with the apparent success of other churches...using their method of success as the standard to achieve success as a church. Every church desires the same thing...at least they should! We all want to see more people come to Jesus as a result of our church. As a result of what we do, how we do it, why we do it, the people who do it. We want the people to come to know Christ. The reality is this...the local church wants the glory in the people coming to know Jesus. The desire is correct, however the motives are all wrong. It becomes all about "look what we did" not "look what Jesus did."
To confess I have struggled with this same issue...I think most pastors do. We commit our lives to reaching the lost and we so desperately want this for our church. We want Jesus to look down and smile upon what our church is doing for him. We want him to be proud of our efforts and our success. As the pastor of Reaction Church, I want this...more importantly I want my personal motives and the church motives to be on the glory being Jesus and not what we did or do or anything else that causes us to focus on the shoveling over the rain. I don't want our church testimony to be like so many other churches out there..."Look what we did." or my "My church did this or that" I want our testimony to simply be look what Jesus did, and if he did it once he can do it again.
I want every person at Reaction Church to be excited about how they are experiencing God and to want to share that every weekend. I want that to be part of our worship and our church testimony... "That the people at Reaction don't just talk about Jesus but experience him." I want people to come to the church and leave with the desire to experience God the same way those who call Reaction home do. I want us to always be looking for how Jesus is moving and to celebrate it...because the reality is this...the rain is coming!
So this is my apology and my commitment to God, Jesus, Reaction Church, my family and myself. That mark of a great leader is one who can apologize. I apologize to God for loosing focus of the rain. I apologize to Jesus for not celebrating his testimony in my life as much as I should be. I apologize to Reaction Church for not leading us to celebrate how Jesus is working in our lives. I have led us to focus more on the method than the source. I apologize to my family for leading them to focus on the hole and not the rain. I apologize to myself for loosing site of how God is moving. My desire has been correct but my motives have been wrong. I have been so focused on how to reach the lost so that Reaction would grow that I lost sight of testimony of Jesus. I have been focused on leading the church well so that God would be proud of me that I lost sight of simply FOLLOWING well. So this is my commitment. I commit to always looking for where God is moving in my life. I commit to celebrating his testimony. I commit to leading Reaction Church to celebrate his testimony above all else. I commit to staying focused on the rain and not the shovel!