I think one of the great challenges facing the church today is the lack of a unified plan to reach our neighborhoods for Christ. We have been given a charge to reach the world together–what is holding us back? I see four main challenges to our accomplishing great things for God.
1. Lack of organization. It’s not for lack of projects; of those we have plenty. The organization I’m talking develops a game plan based on a God-sized vision and cooperation with other believers. It asks the question “What do I need to do to reach non-believer X?” and if it is determined that you need to work with another church to do it, you work with them. You keep track of your progress and together, you target one area and then another and another. Build strong networks and be aware of unreached places and peoples.
2. Viewing other churches as competition. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ; celebrate their successes. Also, don’t try to be like them. Be who God made you to be. If Bob the pastor down the street has 2000 members and you have 200 members, don’t get jealous. Just make sure you are walking in God’s perfect will for your church and support Pastor Bob. Let God work His plan. Smaller is not less important in His eyes. One last thing: if you have resources, launch younger leaders out into the mission field. If they grow larger than you, great. You did your job.
3. Divisions over theological differences. There are non-negotiable beliefs such as salvation by grace, the Virgin Birth, and the resurrection that we can’t compromise on. But whether or not you sing hymns or have a rocking praise band should not keep churches from working together. The world looks on in confusion if denominations badmouth each other and wonders why they would ever want to be a part of the Church. Learn to appreciate differences; they can enrich your life. If you’re Baptist, read about Pentecost in a book by a Pentecostal leader. If you’re charismatic, read a Presbyterian blog about grace. Learn, grow, use discernment, and be open-minded.
4. Our self-centered lifestyles. This involves two aspects. First, we must make to choice to care less about entertaining ourselves and more about serving God and others. There is nothing wrong with relaxation, but if we rush to get our jobs over with so we can mindlessly watch TV, there is something wrong. Our priorities are messed up. We have a Great Commission job to do while we are here on earth and we must give it our all.
Second, we must seek to exalt Christ above exalting ourselves. We play the role He tells us to play. He shines through us. We are not the star, He is. When we put Him first, we allow Him to move and to do His desired works. He wants to heal and to save. Let’s step out of the way.
In closing, I’ll share a personal story. I once was invited to preach at a fairly large church. I was honored to have the opportunity, but as I prayed on what to talk about, I felt God saying that I was not to preach that Sunday but instead offer the opportunity to another man. My flesh screamed at the idea. “Think of all the doors that could open up if you preached there on Sunday” was the general thought. But in my spirit, I knew what to do. This man was new to the area and would be ministering in the community. His preaching would introduce him to people who needed to meet him. As he preached that Sunday, I felt the presence of God. Afterwards, people were coming up to him and saying “That was exactly what I needed.” His sermon wasn’t my sermon at all, but it was what was needed. Lives were changed due to simple obedience. You don’t know the full impact of surrendering your will to God, but it is worth it.
Choose today to step out of your comfort zone and into God’s best. You won’t be disappointed.