A few years ago, I was a victim of a theft. Someone entered my office and took something I’d worked very hard to attain; my preaching bible. That particular bible was well worn with literally hundreds of teaching and preaching notations throughout its pages. Most preachers I know take tremendous care to guard and protect the book that supports their Divinely called efforts to “divide the word of truth.”
It took me a while to realize the book I cherished was no longer where it should have been. At first I thought, “Did I take it out and leave it some place?” I searched a few minutes, but as I moved quickly from one improbable location to the next, I realized I hadn’t inadvertently or foolishly left it anywhere at all. Someone had entered my office, opened my display case, removed it, and hidden the object from sight as they made their way out of the building. Unfortunately and most uncomfortably I kept asking myself, “What motivation would someone have in stealing a preacher’s bible?”
Other than feeling violated by the intrusion, I also began to imagine how they might have “gotten away with” the theft. I sat down at my desk in my comfortable chair and began to think how the thief exited my office and with each step they took to leave the building and go to their car, they had the opportunity to change the path they were pursuing. The thief had every opportunity to turn around and choose a different way. In the end, they didn’t.
To a great degree the same thing has happened to the Mission of Christ. It has been stolen by those who have inappropriately stolen the Divine mission of Jesus unto themselves and slowly but surely redefined it on their terms. Because of this self-serving “redefining,” the spirit of disunity, self-awareness, and most assuredly the spirit of quiet arrogance has become the only winner in a race devoted to shredding the actual mission of Christ into a mountain of mediocrity.
In the last few years several of my colleagues in the “strategic church growth” category of Christian thought have enthusiastically suggested each denomination, region, local church, small group and individual develop a mission statement associated with “their ministry.” The challenge with this well-intended idea has three major goals:
1. Self-awareness and its connection to something bigger than themselves;
2. Self-directed goal orientation; and
3. A disciplined action plan with all of its associate accountability in place.
I am perfectly aware that are new ways of initially reaching today’s technology savvy adults. I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that with each new generation there will arise definable tendencies of how to interact in relevant ways specifically important to them. Even with these disclaimers, I am profoundly comfortable that given Christianity’s challenges to reach new audiences it may not be that we need to discover a “new way” of sharing the empowering message of the Gospel. Rather it may be we have forgotten what our purpose is supposed to be in the first place. We’ve forgotten the Divine identity “in Christ” we already claim.
We have forgotten our mission is His mission! Our purpose is His purpose! Our current reality and our future identity now belongs to the life and mission of Jesus; and as such, we have no right to claim otherwise…once we have claimed Christ as Lord and Savior.
Every Christian is an extension of God’s mission through Jesus. We work, live and breathe under the authority and grace of a risen Savior. We ought not be shy or quiet about that covenantal connection. I have seen churches, Christian education departments, small groups of every description and even sincerely searching individuals desperately moving through the process of “personal discovery” regarding “their” mission. They will work with great diligence and self-discipline to investigate, coordinate and eventually write down what should be their ultimate purpose.
Has anyone actually asked God how they can bless the prescribed Mission of Christ … instead of what has become far too frequent of a tool of lazy church growth “experts.” These experts promote the process of identifying what ministry will make me feel better about myself and therefore dramatically enhance my participation at church? This strategy will in-turn solidify the stability, dollars, and leadership potential of the local congregation.
My experience, The Bible, and the countless spirit filled testimonies from all over the Christian world boldly proclaim the above paragraph is a cheap munipulation of humanity’s lustful need to validate themselves. I believe if each local congregation and each CHRISTIAN soul would be far more interested in growing themselves and others in the “ways of Christ” then healthy and vibrant disciples Would be overwhelmingly obvious within the “body of Christ.”
Just imagine if every church could exponentially expand their maturing, enthusiastic, and relational based disciples what that would mean for the cause of Christ. Just imagine how commonplace it would be to assume churches all across America would be actually healthy and expanding in ways that glorify God and not our limited understanding of humanity.
If we have come to understand that committing ourselves to extending Christ’s mission of self-sacrifice, redemption, and empowerment to anyone and everyone….then that’s a great thing! Truly, it is! However, if we have come to the understanding our “personal faithfulness” to God is dependent upon someone else making us “feel better” about ourselves and our potential “service” to growing God’s kingdom…..then that’s a very bad thing! This way of thinking has little in common with the Way of Christ.
The premise within the second understanding is that if someone will require their personal “ownership” of “their” mission or “their” ministry before anything of sustainable value is likely to be accomplished effectively.
My response to this kind of understanding is…when we are talking about worldly affairs….great. However, when we are speaking in the context of spiritual realities or the affairs of faith? NONSENSE!
All throughout the American Christian landscape, there has developed this outrageous idea that when “feel good” ministry is done well it provide a great benefit to both local congregations and the individual Christians who are attached to each location. This far too easy packaged attitude of self-awareness and personal validation can yield good short-term results. Truth-be-told, in a general sense, it is of course a good and right thing to lift people up with the knowledge that God can change how you view yourself. God can and does uplift people’s futures and the way they approach life. This positive proclamation should never be forgotten or lessened in any way. The issue is not whether or not we should be lifting up a singularly positive message of hope and encouragement. No. The issue at hand is what is our foundational motivation for presenting a “feel good” message.
Far too many preachers and teachers are merely using this “feel good” approach to SNARE new listeners as though some how God’s message needs some slick and manipulative marketing strategy and politically correct packaging. This philosophy screams of the disbelief the speaker has in the Bible and the Holy Spirit. This is not simply bad marketing, it is horrible theology. It is not just a bad and repetitive error in doctrinal teaching, it is denying the inspired validity of Scripture itself.
This attitude of “required trickery” when delivering the gospel, has “stolen” the Mission of Christ from its rightful owner, “the believer.” Remember, it’s not our ministry or mission, it’s Christ’s! I am appalled by so many well intended… but self-serving people… using the terminology “my mission” or “my ministry.” The Bible says nothing about “personal ministry” outside of the ministry and mission of Jesus.
For those of us who have awakened to the Call of God, through the Mission of Christ, we have three basic things we must accomplish:
1. The Calling – Proclaiming publicly in plainly distinct means and methods the message of a loving God who directs His very existence, purpose and pleasure through the life of Jesus;
2. The Collecting – Coming together in genuine fellowship with other believers for mutual support, sharing and praiseworthy worship; and
3. The Caring – Providing service to others in and out of the body of believers to extend the loving message of God so that others may taste and see the goodness, grace and mercy of the same God we claim through us! That’s Christ’s mission. Once we claim Him, His mission becomes ours. We have no ministry or mission other than His.
I am suggesting that all of us take an honest look at our spiritual surroundings and ask ourselves, “Do we actually have our priorities straight? Are we focusing on the right things or the wrong things? Again….”Why is this important?”
Because God’s church, the church built upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, rightfully belongs to The Creator….not us! This same church opened in the name of Jesus exists simply to testify to his life and mission….not ours!
Beloved, the church “building” belongs to God. The money raised or given to the church belongs to God. Those dollars are to be used to uplift, care for, and expand His kingdom. Every bible, every pew, every lightbulb, every person who claims their salvation to God through Christ…belongs to God. The bible tells its readers that the world is His and everything in it. How dare we claim to own the things of God for any other purpose except praising His love, empowerment, and will for those who He has set aside to glorify Himself.
When my preaching bible was taken away from me I felt a sincere loss. I thought of how much work it was going to take replacing all the notations that had taken me 15 years to write throughout its pages. After a few hours of anger and self-pity God gave me a revelation. It was that losing my cherished bible was an opportunity to regain a special intimacy with God as I worked through the new bible with great care and intentionality.
Truthfully, over the next year I gained a remarkable reconnection that was far deeper than I had before….because a thief stole my former preaching bible. I also thought maybe the person who had the old version of my bible would be prompted to read and learn from its pages. That gave me hope. The hope that God was providing gave me a focus to move from outward worry and concern to inward security and a strange comfort in knowing God is still with me.
Just like my opportunity to reconnect to God BECAUSE OF an act of intention harm, so to does the contemporary church. We sho make up the Christian church have a marvelous opportunity to reconnect, to reinvest, and to reignite that which has been lost.
Beloved, there is nothing more important than each individual Christian and every local congregation getting their priorities to perfectly coordinate with God’s plan for His church and His people.