Many people feel that Christians have an agenda and so they should, because we kinda do – sorta. To be honest, yes we do but really from an outside view it sucks. It costs you your life and from an insiders view there is also nothing like it in the world – it is absolutely amazing. This agenda or ‘effort’ let’s say is a naturally occurring one that takes place with the reforming of a heart when someone comes to a true faith in Jesus (just because someone has been going to church for 40 years doesn’t mean the slightest as to their ‘Christianess’).
I like to use the word natural because at some point you have undoubtedly bought something that you were excited about. Naturally you wanted to show if off (I mean around) until it lost its flare even to you. Now picture something SO amazing that the flare never decreases and in fact that over time its beauty and perfection comes more and more into an individual’s view. THAT’S what drives Christians.
If we don’t tell people – still going to heaven. There is no greater heaven and no lesser heaven. Been a ‘Jesus looking Christian’ all your life or were just impacted by Him in the last breathes of life; you have the same access to GOD (Christians strive for closeness with the one who is worth our attention, not for a place that is not Hell – but more on that in another post perhaps).
So yes, to be honest we are excited to share the amazing news of Jesus with others. It costs us our time which few people are willing to give up these days because of ‘self’. It costs us our individual talents as we understand that everything that God has given to us is not meant to be for our gain but to in turn point to His amazingness. It costs us money. You can’t do anything without spending a buck in some way, meals, coffee, paying for parking to go for a walk at the park to state the minors. The key here is in knowing that someone out ‘there’ is missing out on who He in His love and grace and mercy to name a few.
“…the tendency for the church as for the individual is to take everything back into our own feeble hands and chase after the same means of fulfillment as everyone else…”
The Appearance of Effort & Obedience
Most people in the world including Christians see the physical church as the primary effort to reveal God to the world. Good, that was Jesus’ plan. But the tendency for the church as for the individual is to take everything back into our own feeble hands and chase after the same means of fulfillment as everyone else on the planet and make a right crap mess of it all.
Look, this is not a knock on the Church. It is the Bride of Christ according to the Bible and I think that the Devil should have to do his own work and not leave it to ‘Christians’ with a temper. But the truth is this (be careful when anyone says this statement); The West has a very narrow view of what a healthy church looks like. In Europe, Canada and soon to be the U.S. Christendom is dead and the odd historical blip of the un-persecuted church is a trend in reverse. Unbelievable to Christians in these parts of the world is that they are experiencing the wake of a past and bizarre phenomenon. Now add to this the business efficiencies of the century inspired Christian leaders and pop-culture in leading a generation of ‘us-toos’ into trying to make Christianity cool, efficient organizations just like their cultural counterparts.
Somehow there is an equating of church size, number of programs, etc. (not knocking either here) with efficiency of Christian ministry. It is not even on most people’s minds that there is a massive difference between Christian ministry and ministry to Christians, specifically those who would count themselves in that number. As Christian individuals there’s a fun verse in Philippians 2:12 that goes like “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” but it is in fact written to a faith community. Keep pursuing, keep on the right path, don’t just suppose. I think that we suppose. To be honest this entire article is me working out the question of ‘how is Vintage to define effectiveness?”.
The answer was actually hand fed to me months ago as the senior staff of our previous church met at my senior pastor’s home. My wife and I were able to share our process and vision for Vintage Church ahead of our public announcement but left with much more. That evening our senior pastor’s wife (an ordained minister herself) made it very clear, “regardless of what Vintage Church looks like in the future know that God’s delight is in your obedience now as well as in the future”. It has been on my mind in meditation constantly since that evening some five months ago. Any measurable success, any growth – anything, is due to God’s power and plan. We are just trying to be obedient along the way.
As the corporate church or as a Christian individual our effectiveness is rooted in being obedient and like it or not leaving every single other thing up to God. Only He can regenerate hearts. Only He can save. The Great Commission commands us to share and then to disciple (teach) the new believers. Salvation isn’t mentioned because it is impossible with us.
I used to hear “Healthy things grow” from one of my mentors. Totally. But there is also this horrible passage in Isaiah where God asks within the Trinity “Who can we send” and Isaiah spouts off as if he knows the intentions of the Lord and says “Send me!”. The Lord responds with the worst job assignment ever (well telling Hosea to “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom” so that as a prophet he could experience and demonstrate the heart of God as people constantly messed around on Him is up there) and says:
“Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Essentially God is saying “no one is going to listen to you…enjoy”.
Obedience is prayerfully walking into God’s plan, his unfolding of his story which in the case of Isaiah looks nothing like how the church sets priorities and measures success. This really cannot be as easy as we make it out to be. True, God birthed effectiveness then is the God planned result to the obedience filled effort that we are directed to walk out. How do you measure the effectiveness of something that you didn’t plan in the first place? How do you gauge the outcome when you don’t know when to measure it? What if your efforts are meant to accomplish something that may be in be intended to unfold in the generation to come? Seriously, we know what God is like and how He works but outside of the thematic, we have no idea what He is doing.
It seems perhaps that our prayer focused effort is a much more faithful guide than our perceived effectiveness both in the short and long term.
I pray that as attendance climbs that lead pastors will with all fear and trembling fight to know where their people are at whether at 100, 1000 or 10,000 and this is no easy task because often individuals are lying to themselves and trying to use Jesus to get to their real idols which never pays off and then in return frustrates them.
I pray that the guy down the road with 40 faithful God-fearing people in the congregation is overwhelmed with delight in the knowledge of one day hearing ‘Well done good and faithful servant’.
Be blessed in Christ my friends.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33