Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation–an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No–but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.
(2 Corinthians 2:15-17 MSG)
My heart has been troubled recently. Even as I write this, I am praying for God to move in a way that satisfies my thirst for his wisdom. What am I questioning? I am not even sure but I think it has to do with attitudes in a day when people need Christ now more than ever. Let me explain:
Recently, I was reading the thoughts of a person I very much respect in ministry circles. He had decided after years of attendance at another church that it was time for his family to move on to a new challenge. In short, he settled on the mega church that was running five services, thousands in attendance, and of course, had a children’s ministry layout to rival even the largest Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. I read similar thoughts from another leader I know and his thoughts were almost identical. Both spoke of how their kids were dragging them to church so they could play in the play area (and of course, get some God in there as well). In neither case did I hear anything about what was being preached from the pulpit. That bothered me. Perhaps it was an oversight but more and more as I seek to reach out to families, I struggle with issues like “Do you have a dynamic children’s ministry?” Of course we do but that’s my opinion. What is your definition of “dynamic”. This is just one area but it really bugs me how we have created a church culture of “me” instead of “we”. Many parents will visit and see that our ministry is housed in a cafeteria and wonder what their kids are learning. Do they get to play? Do we have a play area? The questions go on and on.
To be fair, I realize the value of a solid children’s program but maybe this is where I’m old fashioned. I believe the kids should learn how to sit, how to read and interact with a lesson, and THEN perhaps have a time of play when all is done. What is it parents want their kids to learn? Is it “dynamic” babysitting or do they want “dynamic” bible teaching? I’ll never have the money to duplicate what I see in so many church plants on line. To be honest, I don’t want to either. That sounds selfish but I can’t justify spending that amount of money so junior will drag his mom to church and we call that evangelism. I guess I’m missing the boat here and will be considered “behind the times” by some.
The above scripture spoke to my heart in this area. I realize that as a pastor, I get the very words I speak from God and my job is to take His wisdom and present it the best way I can. I am to preach the word. That’s why earlier this year, I struggled with the idea of video preaching. My thoughts were well documented and I received a fair share of criticism for them but that’s okay. Interaction is what blogging is all about and I learned a lot from others who benefit from the things I questioned. I just can’t shake the words from this passage out of my head. For some, the smell of who we are will be a welcome fragrance while for others, stench! I want to be relevant. I want my church to grow to healthy levels…not mega church levels, just healthy. I love my people too much to go “CEO” on them and ignore them after they’ve given me so much to see a dream realized. I will preach and present God’s wisdom as honestly as I can.
My back and forth struggle comes from others who question what we do, why we do it, and why we aren’t already running 200 in our services. Only God knows these answers. I know that church planting is a difficult endeavor in the best of times but with an economy that’s in trouble and gas still very expensive, people are questioning themselves when it comes to things like church. Some will follow, others will stay for a season and leave while still others smell “stench” and leave after a visit. I’ve spent some lonely nights on a mountaintop prayer spot I made my own when I first moved to Denver. As I look out over the city and see the lights, I envision each as a lost soul that needs salvation. God give me just a handful of lights! Help me to better serve them. When you can’t offer a McDonald’s playland for their kids, do you have a chance? I still think so.
My friend I mentioned at the beginning of this piece is a talented speaker and writer. He has great leadership qualities and yet, he chose to relocate to a “safe” zone in my opinion rather than bring his gifts to a church that could really have used them to make a difference in the community they serve. It makes no difference who he is. He is a representation of much of the population we reach out to. So many people could benefit churches that need the qualities they possess and yet so many will choose a “safe” option because it’s already built. I believe Jesus calls us to something more challenging.
My time in God’s word constantly breaks me. I made a decision years ago to read scripture and allow myself to be shaped by it and not to see how it could fit into my life. I’ve been tempted many times to go another route but I know it’s what God expects. So many get angry when they pursue this path because God will challenge our very best thinking but still, HIS word shapes me. I don’t shape the word to fit my desires anymore. Sometimes it costs me. Not anything near what it cost Jesus to redeem me so I’m even selfish for saying that. I guess this post is more about searching than anything else. It feels cathartic for me to write it even as I sit in the quiet and listen to peaceful music.
To my readers, I pray for you often. Pray for me if you are so inclined. I am so blessed here and have a wonderful church family. My supervisors are excellent as well. I just want to do my very best to reach others and build a life-changing church for the glory of our Lord. I pray over the decisions we make all the time. Being in this position means you will get criticized. I just want to know that despite that, God is pleased and that’s all that matters to me.
Have a blessed day!