As we approach the end of the year, I take the time to think about what transpired during the course of the year. I celebrate the successes of numerous ministries and countless thousands of salvations and hundreds of church plants. Yet as much as I want to sit back and rejoice, I can’t. Something inside of me is not comfortable. If you would ask me if the Church is winning the spiritual war with darkness, I would be blunt and say no.
Why the seemingly negative article at this a joyous time of year where we celebrate the birth of Jesus? I think it because God would have me not celebrate mediocrity when He has so much more for us. Throughout the Bible, promises of hope and love were always accompanied by warnings of judgment. Men and women of God spoke as they were led one way or the other. God is leading me, I believe to make a bold statement: know the difference between winning a small battle and winning a war.
We as Christians settle for a bland and boring faith that thinks it is accomplishing something big for God when really all we are doing is wasting time and celebrating trivial successes. Has your church really changed its community or does it sit like a happy island, content to please a chosen few while the town around it sinks deeper into the mire of hopelessness and immorality? Does your ministry cooperate with other ministries to maximize effectiveness or are you content to be the king of your little kingdom, setting up your book table filled with platitudes about love and change when you really haven’t done anything for your neighbor who sits hungry or jobless next door?
Are you as a pastor content to let 80 percent of your congregation sit back comfortably doing nothing while they applaud you as a man of God? Do you have a plan to motivate them to do their God-ordained duty? It may cost you everything to boldly tell them the truth about their spiritual immaturity but God commands it. Do your kids know why they come to church or why they have a faith worth sharing?
In this year ahead, I propose we strive for the real big change God desires. Focus on these five areas:
1. Complete surrender to God’s plan. Is there something God told you to do? Then do it. Quit getting distracted by your favorite TV program and do it. What holds you back? Cut it out of your life. Let God purge you and set you apart for wholehearted service.
2. Commit to dreaming big. While God does rejoice even in the small successes, He wants us to fulfill His ultimate mission: every person on Earth having a quality opportunity to make a personal decision to forsake sin and finding hope and love in Jesus. Is your outreach program’s successes keeping up the pace with the darkness? How do we know at the end of the day that people in your community actually understand the Gospel? Numbers aren’t everything but don’t pretend that a stagnant church in a growing community is even coming close to reaching its potential.
3.Commit to reaching the next generation. I am not advocating never singing old hymns again. We must honor godly heritage. But realize clinging to things that make you feel comfortable may be keeping young people out of the kingdom of God. Present the gospel in relevant yet non compromising ways. Speak truth boldly and embrace change.
4. Commit to working together. We don’t have time to argue doctrinal differences or guard our own private kingdoms. Only when the world sees the church working together as a whole with a solid biblical foundation will we be able to quiet the critics who claim they would never join such a disjointed bunch of people. Celebrate diversity in the body of Christ and pool resources for maximum impact.
5. Commit to training leaders, young and old. Why do you think you have young leaders leaving your church? It’s because you cloak having a gofer who gets you coffee in the guise of leadership training. Train your successor to have greater success than you and to actually have a clearer path to greater responsibility than just “someday I’ll let you do more if you stick with it.” Also, demonstrate a commitment to taking the bold risks necessary to see real change.
Together we can be the change the world needs, a bright beacon of hope in a lost world and not just a flashlight that pretends to be a lighthouse.