Monday, August 11, 2008

Forgetting to Breathe

It goes without saying that our efforts to promote our individual congregations "are nothing if God isn't working through them."

Kevin Hendricks tells us:

It's like breathing. Life doesn't work so well if we forget to breathe. That's how I see the role of God in church growth--or any of the marketing and communications we talk about.

He reassures us that methods are just methods, as long as we rely on God:

Trying to bring people to Jesus should never be about mindlessly following a set formula. We certainly have to do our part, and that may mean following a standard formula, but we also need to rely on God to work through that formula. Notice that the reliance is on God, not the formula, and as long as we rely on God there's nothing wrong with the formula.

I used to think like this and talk like this.

But I've since repented of my stupidity and my self-delusion.

There are several problems with this kind of thinking.

First, breathing is automatic. Under normal circumstances, people don't need to think about breathing. Relying on God is far from automatic. It requires focus, concentration and a degree of self-discipline. The default attitude is to trust in ourselves and in our "formulas."

Second, methods are not just methods. Every strategy is based upon several assumptions. We often use methods and strategies that are not consistent with the essence of the gospel. For example, motivating people through guilt or pride is an affront to the good news of grace.

Third, this kind of thinking is at its heart based upon the deadly misappropriation of God's mission as our mission. It is not our job to convert people. It is not our job to save the world. It is not our job to build the kingdom. It is God's mission in which he has invited us to participate.

Fourth, we have narrowly defined making disciples as getting people signed up for heaven. We assume that fulfilling the Great Commission is equal to increasing the weekly attendance at our church.

Fifth, this approach easily becomes a cover for ego-driven "ministry." I make all these great plans and ask God to bless them. I use my God-given skills and God-given resources to produce results. I give God credit for what happens. But this ends up being the same as an actor in his Oscar-acceptance speech thanking his parents because "this wouldn't have been possible without you."

Depending upon God and living missionally do not happen automatically.

  • All our natural instincts work against us, especially our egos.
  • Our materialistic, consumer culture distracts us from focusing on God's kingdom.
  • The busyness and stress of "ministry" squeeze out the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Relying on God requires

  • Intentionality (The first step must be to intend to trust in God.)
  • Commitment (We must practice the spiritual disciplines that will allow the Holy Spirit to produce his fruit in our lives.)
  • Focus (We must cut through all the distractions.)
  • Trust (We must let go of the feeling that it all depends upon us.)

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

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