Wednesday, March 06, 2019

I'm Tired of Church



“I’m tired of church… I’m tired of doing church.” My friends and I nodded, understanding the sentiment, but clarification was needed nonetheless. Mark has pastored his church in Newton, North Carolina for sixteen years and by most people’s definition it is a great church: people are coming to Christ regularly, marriages are being transformed, the building is expanding. We had just spent time discussing how he could add 200 more seats in the sanctuary. The church has prospered under Mark’s leadership. I was excited for what God was doing, and honestly, a little jealous. So when Mark said he was tired of church, I had to ask for clarification.

His response, “I want to move the needle.” Now it was becoming clearer, and he was voicing what so many pastors and me are feeling.

Creating efficient systems, starting new programs, developing leaders, drawing crowds, creative worship, and installing lights make the church more engaging for the ones who attend, but if we are honest, the church is making less of an impact today than ever in America. We have become irrelevant to our communities. Sure, we know how to entertain, inspire, and give great tips for daily life, but life transformation doesn’t make it outside the doors of the building.

As seven of us pastors rode in the car, we began to rehearse historical revivals and how they shaped and transformed whole towns. The presence of God was overwhelming, to the point where people would fall on their knees in repentance. Factories would shut down so “people could tend to their souls.” Today, our communities barely notice the church and secular voices dominate and dictate what morality is.

Days later, Mark sent us a message further clarifying the metaphor, a reference to the old analog vu meter used in audio recording. VU stood for Volume Units. When recording, some audio sources were not even loud enough to make the needle move off the bottom- in other words it was too faint to be of much use to record. So saying that something is moving the needle means that it is enough to register or make a difference to the user- enough for the user to take note of.

Mark was expressing what we each wanted: A spiritual awakening that moved the needle; meaning transformed lives which changes people, families, and cities.

The evangelical world has historically called this experience revival. Although the word “revival” is not found in the New Testament, it expresses a renewed emphasis on spiritual matters that change behavior. It is the extraordinary activity of the Holy Spirit that leads the people of God to extraordinary commitment to the work of God. It is a spiritual realignment of our hearts and lives to the will of God, and a deep longing to know God and to make Him known.

Many books have been written over the years on revival with incredible stories, and they all seem to come down to a few ingredients: corporate prayer, repentance, and a bold voice which is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God that leads to salvation.

The most prominent scriptures quoted in reference to revival comes from 2 Chronicles 7:13–16 and Revelation 2:4-5:

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
 And
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
It would be wise for those of us looking to “move the needle,” look into our own hearts first and allow the Holy Spirit to search and reveal the areas of our lives we need to address. We often want God to bring revival to our church, or country, and miss what God wants to do in us personally. Out of the inner longing of wanting to know Christ above all things, we turn our attention to wanting to make Him known to others.

My prayer is that the church of Jesus begins to move the needle. Lord, start the work in me.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN THE BODY OF CHRIST

Ephesians 4:11–14, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (NLT)

Many sincere Christians spend their entire lives earnestly searching for an experience, a conference, a revival or a book that will transform their lives. Their search is futile. Although we have instant coffee, instant potatoes, and now even instant weight-loss methods, there is no such thing as instant spiritual maturity. The truth is this: Spiritual growth, just like physical maturity, is a process that takes time. There are no shortcuts to maturity.

Discipleship isn’t just one of the things the church does; it is what the church does. It’s not just part of the advancement of God’s kingdom; the existence of serious disciples is the most important evidence of God’s work on earth.

Bill Hull writes about five dimensions of discipleship, which can be used to evaluate our spiritual growth over time.

  1. Transformed thinking: Someone who believes what Jesus believed. This changes our thought life as we begin to think about the world differently and change our desires.
  2. Transformed character: Someone who lives as Jesus lived. This connects our beliefs to our behavior and changes who we are in regards to humility, honesty, integrity, etc. 
  3. Transformed relationships: Someone who loves as Jesus loved. This breaks down the walls that separate us and brings healing to broken lives.
  4. Transformed service: Someone who ministers as Jesus ministered, responding to the needs around him. 
  5. Transformed influence: Someone who leads as Jesus leads, taking on the role of a servant. 

(“Five Dimensions of Discipleship,” Bill Hull, (Choose the Life)

Based on Bill Hull’s five dimensions of discipleship, how do you evaluate your present condition of spiritual growth?

Based on Bill Hull’s five dimensions of discipleship, is there one particular area that the Lord challenging you in at the present time?

Based on what you have read and what God is saying to you, what decision do you need to make?

Experience Forgiveness In the Body of Christ

Colossians 3:12–14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Corrie Ten Boom shares this true story in her book, The Hiding Place: 
It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!"  His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Take a moment and reflect on the story of Corrie Ten Boom. How can this story help us to forgive those who have wounded us?

Are you harboring anger and bitterness toward any people in your life?  Are there people in your life that you need to extend forgiveness to?