As with the Apostle Paul, I am humbly grateful for “counting me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12) and entrusting me with leading part of His church, our local body of believers. While leading and teaching others in the local church for nearly 30 years, I have experienced some mighty high “highs” and some pretty low “lows”. While I agree that God has chosen His Church, which by extension includes the local body of believers gathering together in one accord, (Acts 2:42; 14:23) there have been times when I was ashamed of the way the church has behaved because of its self-righteousness, ingratitude, and narcissism. Rather than living a life of contagious graciousness modeled by Jesus, we follow the model of the Pharisees. But as I reflect on those inglorious moments, I begin to realize that, just as Jesus’ disciples struggled with these same issues, we are also on a continual journey to Christ-likeness without one of us having completely arrived yet. The church is made up of fallible, albeit redeemed followers of Jesus Christ. (Oh boy, can I remember when I acted like the chief of the Pharisees. Really, I am trusting Him that I can do better tomorrow.)
Having said all of this, I am humbled that God has still called us to trust Him and “plod” along faithfully doing His will each day.
I found a blog post by Pete Wilson, one of the pastors of Cross Point Church that led me to a post by Kevin DeYoung on the Ligonier Ministries blog that sparked this post. Normally, I do not re-post such a large block of someone else’s blog, but I would like to take the liberty of sharing a part of what he wrote.
It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.
What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.
My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church. As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?
Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.
It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed — and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it.
The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott).
While the church may need to assess and consider realigning itself to conform to God’s intended purpose for it, I still believe there is no limit to what can be accomplished for the Kingdom of God through His resources invested in the local church.
How about your thoughts?
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This time of year many are busy running around town buying gifts for family and friends, attending parties, decorating, cooking, and other things people are involved in during holiday time. But why? What’s the purpose? Is it just gifts, great food and parties? Is it to spread cheer, good will, and spend quality time with friends and family? These are admirable pursuits and should be engaged in all during the year. But why now? Why Christmastime? What’s all the fuss about?
Can you say, “J E S U S”? That’s right…It’s all about Jesus. God, in His great love, wants us in a relationship with Him and made it possible for us to be reconciled back to Him. Oh, what grace. AWESOME! What radical love that would provide the most precious sacrifice possible for such ungrateful, self-absorbed, rebellious, dirty-rotten-stinkin’ sinners as us? God’s love, that is! And God demonstrated that awesome love in the form of Jesus.
Let us express our thanks for our Savior’s birth this Christmas with the words from the Christmas song, Joy to the World, “Let earth receive her King and let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.” In Luke 2:10 we read, “Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Christ came not only to be Emmanuel, Matthew 1:23 (God with us), but also in an even more personal way, God in us.
So what? What’s our response? Should the advent of the greatest gift to mankind make a difference in our lives? If you have trusted Him as your Savior, then it should make all the difference in the world. Our response should be worship. As Louie Giglio says, “Worship is our response to what we value the most.” And our response should mirror the worship of the shepherds as they departed, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.“ – Luke 2:17.
God has given to each of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, a responsibility to reach out to others who need help in their lives to understand that God loves them and wants to accept them just as they are and provide for them a life like no other.
Thoughts to ponder this Christmas season:
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN! Share your FAITH!
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