“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22
Yesterday was “Serve Day 2012” for my church. The leadership estimates between eight and ten thousand people from our church became the hands and feet of Jesus to the “least of these” in our state. I love my church. I really do. Some people don’t like big churches like mine, but I love to see what can happen when that many people come together in the Lord’s name to be the church.
My youngest son and I joined hundreds of other “Red Shirts” (All who volunteered were given red shirts declaring us on the “Serve Team”) at the Birmingham Christian Service Mission to lend a hand in any way we could. The building got a new coat of paint, the yard area was cleared of overgrowth and landscaped. Inside the large warehouse, many hands worked together to package up donated items that will be handed out to those in need in our state. All accomplished in four hours.
When Evan and I arrived early yesterday morning, we were instructed to go into the warehouse and get our work assignment from a Mission staff person names Allison. We approached Allison, along with some other newly arriving volunteers, and asked her what we could do to help. To say Allison was overwhelmed was an understatement. She asked, “How many of you ARE there?” I don’t think they understood that when we said we were coming… we were COMING! As I looked around the inside of the warehouse and saw all the red shirts already there, I thought it looked like a colony of ants at work! I don’t even think I got the names of those working the closest to me, but we had a great time together just the same.
I believe with all my heart that the successes that have been enjoyed by the church I serve are directly related to having the hand of God upon her. If I am honest, having that hand taken from us is one of my greatest fears. To that end, I pray regularly for the leadership of our church. I pray that they never become self focused, but always do everything for the glory of God. That they seek everyday to follow in His ways and to lead with integrity the people of God.
Someone asked our pastor yesterday how it felt for him to ask his church to do something, and actually have them do it. To have that kind of influence is precious. To guard against believing it has anything to do with you is critical.
I’ve seen what happens to a church when God’s hand is not upon it. It’s not pretty. They are inward focused and life sucking. I’ve been there. I don’t ever want to be there again. Churches of all sizes can be blessed of the Lord. The formula just has to be the same.
They must be outward focused. The local church, regardless of size, is still the hope of the world. They must not have disdain for the very ones they are called to reach. They must not prefer to meet their own needs to the neglect of those they are called to serve. They must strive to avoid the trappings of the Laodiceans.
They must be life giving. We give because we want to, not because we are guilted into it. We serve because in serving we find our joy. We live life together, because together is better than living it alone. And together we can accomplish much.
They must be led with integrity. People will only follow someone they believe is trustworthy. But leading a church as pastor is a tough road. A pastor has some measure of success and they can begin to believe their own press. People will try to build up a pastor in his own eyes. When that happens, the focus is off. In the words of Mr. Han from the Karate Kid movie, “Your focus… It need more focus.”
It’s hard for pastors and churches to keep the focus where it needs to be. It’s easy to turn the focus inward. Churches can worry more about meeting their own needs rather than the needs of the hurting around them. This is when a church becomes life sucking. People attend a life sucking church out of obligation rather than purpose. The leadership must keep the Main Thing the main thing. (And they must remember, they are not the main thing.)
Jesus is, and forevermore shall be, The Main Thing.
Great job, Church of the Highlands. Serve Day 2012 was great. Praise be to the Lord!