As Crosspointe began to relaunch, several things were in our way. First and foremost? Ourselves. Second? Fear. They are both connected, and they both have the power to cripple a group of people trying to accomplish a goal.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the church in America is not that we are lazy or stuck in our ways. I think those bring problems in their own right. I think the bigger problem is that we are so short-sighted. We want what we want when we want it. Now. There is no waiting in our culture. We are the information overload generation. We are the point and click civilization. We have become sadly nearsighted.
One of the most important things I’ve learned, thus far, is that I am not here to make things about myself. I am not here to accumulate three hundred conversions and then be carted off to the sweet by and by. I often think I am. I often stress and denigrate myself because I feel I’m not being effective. However, Satan is a liar and an accuser. Most of our congregations get caught in that rut and never get out.
How can we, when we measure ourselves based on the three “B’s?” You know what I’m talking about, and your congregation has its own versions: Budget, bodies, baptisms. How much money are we bringing in? How many people come to Sunday morning worship? How many baptism have we had this year?
Don’t get me wrong – those are good indicators of body health. They can show us symptoms. Yet, we should be careful to realize that these things are NOT the standard God uses to measure success. He measures transformed lives and we’ll talk about that next post. Let it be enough for now to say that transformed lives happens in a believer’s life, and also in an unbeliever’s life. And it’s always happening.
As a result of using the wrong measuring stick to gauge our congregation’s health, we often come out feeling like failures. “Brother so-and-so baptized thirty people a year…but you’re not.” No, I’m not. It would be incredible, but that’s not me. I relish in baptism. It is the point at which someone is ransomed from the kingdom of death to the Kingdom of God. However, that is not the end. Baptism is just a means. An important one, but not the goal.
For years our congregations have sought to immerse people in the water, but forgot to immerse them in the Word of God. We’ve turned baptism into some superstitious ritual akin to the dreadful “Sinner’s Prayer,” and then we assume people will be ok. Scripture tells us that when we are baptized we are reborn (John 3). You wouldn’t leave a newborn on the side of the road to fend for themselves, would you? All too often, however, we have done just that to baby Christians. And they die spiritually. Then we sit back, scratch our heads, and wonder “Where’d they go? They were baptized! They know the truth! How could they turn away?
Because they didn’t know the truth because we didn’t teach them. We sought to make a number out of them rather than a disciple. God didn’t design it that way.
As a result, we make short-sighted goals and jump from this trend to that, or this study to that, or this church to that because we want to see the end result. We want to see the good stuff. We want to see success.
Let me suggest that all we have done is create the spiritual equivalent of an opioid addict. We have let ourselves become so consumed with looking good, being successful and busy, that we lost sight of the goal. As a result we live our spiritual lives devoid of any joy and longevity because we’re looking for that next “high.”
Congregations spend millions to erect new buildings and hire the most charismatic personalities, yet go into spiritual poverty. All in the name of “success.” It’s because we’re using the wrong stick to measure with.
Fear is inextricably tied to this. When we’re not being successful, then we feel we must do more. As a result, we need more volunteers, we skip planning, and we hardly ever pray about what we SHOULD do. Instead we try to force God to do what we WANT to do. We stroke our egos and our lives, by manufacturing a false confidence that is not based on faith and God. It’s based on ourselves. No matter how many platitudes we throw out or how many times we say, “Thank you, Lord, ” what we’re really saying by our actions is, “God is good…but we got this. We’ll call you when we need you.”
The Book of Judges would be a good place to look at how this sick-cycle carousel of spiritual addiction and self-aggrandizement works out. It doesn’t. Anybody can make a church seem successful, but only God can make a church grow.
Fear and short-sightedness leave us open to believe we CAN do this. We can fix this. We can be better. And then, through this even or that downfall, we realize, “No, we can’t.”
At Crosspointe, when we set out to reach the unchurched, and not just try to green up our pastures to tantalize low-hanging fruit listlessly drifting to one congregation after another, it was terrifying.
It meant that some sacred cows were going to get butchered. It meant rethinking everything. It meant that every ministry that wasn’t reaching the unchurched was going to be buried with honors in the back field of our property. It meant we were going to change. Change is perhaps the curse-word of the church. Nobody likes it. It’s awful. It can hurt. But, change ,must happen.
Fear is the liar that keeps us chained to the “we can fix this” model and away from reckless trust in God. Fear keeps us spinning in neutral until we run out of gas. Fear keeps us burning our volunteers and staff and an alarming rate. Fear keeps us from liberating the captives who are being held prisoner by Satan and death. Fear keeps us from moving ahead because we’re always looking back at the “Good old days.”
Fear is a liar.
At Crosspointe, we decided to kick fear out. We decided to let God define what the goal and the rubric of success were. He has not disappointed. That’s where we’ll pick up next time.
Jesus loves you more than I ever could,