Recently my heart has been burdened by an observation I’ve made that exists with the individual Christian who seems to lack vibrancy in their faith. The same observation can be made about stagnent or dying churches and ineffective denominational entities.
Many people operate for self preservation rather than Gospel advancement.
We can all become self preservationists if we’re not careful. We start off pursuing Jesus and His mission for our lives. Our white hot passion is to see His name lifted up among the nations. We storm hell with a squirt gun. Along the way reality hits us. The words of scripture seem to pack less punch, we’re around the naysayers and do-nothings who nudge us not to be so idealistic and ultimately we lose our sense of purpose. In an attempt to regain this purpose (universally w/o seeking revival) we end up pursuing self-preservation. In order to avoid blowing our cover we couch our new preservationist strategy in language of the church world. We say we’re about one thing but we live an entirely different way.
Church Plants- If it’s a church plant you may observe the most gospel-centered document ever produced is often the vision or strategy before launch. The planter is alone with God and burdened by what ‘must be’. The sense of losteness is palpable and the burden is heavy. Fast forward a few months or a few hardships and you find that the focus has turned to buildings, butts and budgets. The preaching is less about our response to the call of Jesus to advance the gospel and more about how to ‘shape up’, give more money or serve in a ministry. Again, these things aren’t inherantly evil but they often are without focus, power and impact because they are disconnected from the main mission. Nevermind what Jesus said about not being connected to ‘the Vine’… we’re “trying to grow the church”.
Established Churches- Established churches aren’t immune at all. In many cases the need for the church plants are due to the dry bones of the established churches in the same town. Long ago they lost their focus, took their proverbial “eye off the ball” and now sit as modern museums to a bygone era when the building was a tool and not a monument. Walking into these churches feels like walking into a meat locker. There is no warmth, no love, no Jesus being preached. Again you’ll find humanistic thoughts wrapped in Christian vernacular but you won’t find a burden for the gospel to advance in the city.
Local Associations & State Conventions:
Recently in our world the GCR was passed to address some of this institutional apathy. My prayers remain that we do not simply shuffle around the staff who have overseen this drought.I’m praying God gives us fresh annointing and passion coming from men and women who are burning with a genuine passion for the Gospel. I’m encouraged by the national changes but I’m praying that these changes make their way down to the mission field.
As it stands from my perspective in Baltimore, MD I have found the local association to be very anemic and our state convetntion to be focused on many things that do not produce new believers in Jesus. In both of these cases I do not call into question the motives for the origins or the faithful men and women of the past who led these efforts for gospel advancement. My broken heart for these agencies comes from encounter after encounter that demonstrate the priorities of the leadership. Leaders who have moved from Gospel advancement to self preservation. The bar is not “How many people are hearing and receiving the gospel?” The focus is more on “How are the reports looking and who is showing up to my meetings?” People work diligently to justify their jobs and celebrate inherently deceiving milestones in an effort to cross the finish line of retirement. If I had not observed this on many levels over the course of the last 3 years I would personally be offended to even hear someone say these things out loud. But silence is precicely what self-preservationists count on. Instead of humbly repenting and being broken over the lack of genuine Gospel-advancement there are many who have settled for far less worthy and less biblical celebrations, namely power and a paycheck.
All Of Us:
In all of these situations our enemies are silence, apathy and ambivalence. Like a baby, we are rocked into a sense of security about our situations. Whether it be personal or organizational preservation we must not allow the Gospel of Jesus to be reduced and then eliminated as a focus to the point where preservation is a viable goal.
The Bottom Line:
So where is the bottom line? In my case the bottom line is with the man typing these words. In your case the bottom line is with you. At any point where we’re concerned about our preservation over the advancement of the Gospel, we must stop and repent. We have insulted a holy and loving God who we doubt by trying to manipulate our own standing among others. We have also insulted Him by our willingness to hijack His mission for our own.
I’m praying that my soul would remain stirred to advance the Gospel of Jesus above the name Tally Wilgis, Captivate Church or any other name. My prayer for us is that we never allow something other than the Gospel drive our decisions. In spite of my concern for our local association and state convention I am committed to be part of the solution. The solution ultimately rests in every decision being focused on how the Gospel will be advanced.