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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hope less = Hopeless

It has been one of my biggest shocks as a new minister.  A development I was not at all prepared for.  I have always believed that Christianity was almost synonymous with Hope.  Can you be a Christian and have no hope?  Well, our church's appear to be abounding with people who believe just that.  The longer I am in ministry the more I realize that people hope less than they should.  I'm beginning to see that this is one of the major faults of our church today, for when we hope less, then our faith becomes hopeless...where is the point? Where is the vision? Where is the expectation?  When there is less hope, there is less vision, less expectation and in my opinion, less Christ following.

I am continually frustrated by those who hear a new idea and immediately respond, "it will never work" or "they will not come" or "we've never done it that way before" or "our people will not like that."  I've heard it my entire ministry and quite honestly, I'm losing my patience with it.  Where is our hope that God is still present and active in our church?  Where is our hope that people really are looking for God and ways to experience God's presence?  Where is our hope that in our worship, God will transform us and in turn transform our world?  When did we decide to hope less?  Have we truly been that disappointed in past failures that we no longer feel like putting forth the effort of reaching out on God's behalf?

Psalm 71 comes to mind, "Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth...But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all day long..."  If we truly are a people of hope then should this Psalm not speak to us?  With each new idea, each potential ministry, every opportunity of evangelism, should we not jump at the chance to "tell of your righteous act and your deed of salvation all day long."?  Why then do we say, "ah, it will never work!" 

Folk's, God's Word has ALWAYS worked when someone was bold enough to proclaim it and audacious enough to hope in the glorious results possible.  Let us open our minds and hearts again and dare to hope more in the opportunities of ministry.  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Romans 15:13 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A question of making the right introductions

Networking has been a big buzz word in the business world. The concept being that you want to be introduced to the right people that can help you further your goals.  Too often, Christians and sadly, even our ministers, have a tendency to treat the church as if it is a business. Meaning that evangelism has seemingly become a form of Christian networking. Our thinking seems to be that if we can just meet the right people and make the right introductions then BAM! Goals will be met and our churches will be full.  Not a bad concept I suppose but something has been bothering me about it...something is off and I'm really been struggling to define it but in the past new weeks I think I have narrowed it down.  It is all about the purpose of the introduction.

The question I would like for us to consider is this: When we evangelize, are we doing it so that we can introduce people to church or are we evangelizing so we can introduce people to God?  A friend reminded me this week that we should never get the two confused - Church and God are not synonymous.  God is God and the church is a servant of God.  So, when we say we are "reaching out to the community" or "evangelizing the neighborhood" what do we really mean?  Are we providing them with chances to see what a great church we have and hope they will join us on Sunday morning? Or are we providing them with a real opportunity to meet God, to learn and experience God's love and provision in a real and life-altering way?  I think there is a huge difference between to two.

Programs, events, parades, picnics, festivals are good and fun things to do occasionally but last time I checked the great commission said, "Go and make disciples" not "Go and rent a bouncy booth for the neighborhood kids to enjoy."  I look at my community and what I see are lost and hurting people who have plenty of entertainment opportunities at their disposal but they do not know that a new and vibrant life is available and waiting for their embrace.  

Have you ever gone out with a friend and had the opportunity to meet someone important, but your friend dominates the meeting and you never even get introduced? Frustrating isn't it? God is here and waiting for the church to make the introduction to the lost and least - but the church seems too busy introducing themselves to point out that God is there.

The right introductions are important for success.  The question is, whose success is more important - your church? Or God's Kingdom?