EVERY church struggles with the tension of reaching new people and taking care of the ones already there. Churches and the people in them can drift and lose sight of the important things. There is no perfect church or perfect way of doing church. But every church can drift and become isolated from the world around us and lose it’s effectiveness.
When you are drifting you don’t even notice. You just wake up one day and you are in a different place
- Relationships can be that way
- Work can be that way
- Finances can be that way
- Values and character can be that way
So here are 3 things that we as a church need to fight against drifting toward:
- The drift toward insiders and away from outsiders.
- Every church drifts toward this way of thinking and it’s dangerous:
o We know our favorite songs and complain when they aren’t played – My preferences instead of what is effective in reaching other people.
o These are our people, we take care of our own at the expense of reaching out and caring for others.
o I have been in the same small group for 10 years instead of thinking about how to include some others in building close community and stretching myself by starting a new group.
o We complain that we don’t know everyone anymore when the church grows, instead of celebrating that more people are connecting with God.
o We focus on the people who are here and don’t have a passion for the people not yet here.
o We focus on church programs or activities and not people.
o We try to please the insiders and turn off outsiders.
o We think we have the best children’s programs, the Best student program, the Best preaching and we stop trying to improve or innovate.
o We stop learning and improving or changing.
How do we fight this drift?
Let’s focus more on who we want to reach, rather than who we are trying to keep. That does not mean we don’t care about the people already here, it’s important to help everyone grow. It’s about the main focus always being to reach more people that do not know Christ.
- We all need to remember that Everyone spends forever somewhere, either in the presence of God in heaven or separated from him forever.
- We have the most important mission in the world! Therefore we should be promoting the church more than anything else.
- The local church really is the hope of the world living and teaching the truth of Jesus Christ.
- There are over 11 million people in Ohio and millions of them don’t go to church!
- We can never be big enough as long there are people that don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- The drift toward law and away from grace
- The natural drift of a church and people is to have a lot of rules or policies.
- We like to have a set of rules to follow, because it helps us to know if we are winning, improving.
- Following the rules makes us feel good, but can also cause us to be judgmental.
- If we are not careful our focus can become more about gaining knowledge and less about loving people.
How do we fight this Drift?
We always err on the side of Grace
- Jesus was a perfect example for us to follow:
o Jesus spent time with Sinners and called the religious people hypocrites.
o Matthew was a tax collector, which was a despised position, cheating people and taking their money. Jesus asking him to follow me, he didn’t ask him to clean up his act first.
o Jesus said in Mark 2:17, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
- Following rules and rituals at church is easy & comfortable.
- Having crucial conversations, building healthy relationships and extending grace are messy, hard and uncomfortable but it’s what Jesus did.
- We need to speak the truth in love and yet extend grace – The church should be about both truth and grace.
- The church should be irresistible, because Jesus was irresistible.
- The drift toward preserving rather than advancing
- Example: business owner…when he starts out he risks because there’s nothing to lose. The bigger the company grows the more risk-adverse he becomes.
o Churches are the same way
o In the beginning we had nothing but a vision, but then as we grew there is more to lose and so we become more conservative and fearful of losing what we have.
o Jews: “we have to PRESERVE the law!”
- But they forgot to advance the kingdom
How do we fight this drift?
Let’s remain openhanded in our attempts to advance the message of Jesus Christ
Open handed means giving freely and generously
- So the question is what are we risking to advance the Kingdom? What are we praying for as a church? What are you praying for in your life?
- What are we trying to preserve? Our history? Our traditions? Our rituals?
- What are we trying to advance? The Good news about Jesus Christ?
- What are we afraid of losing? What fears are keeping us inward focused instead of outward focused?
- Are we comfortable in our own world or church and not concerned or passionate about those that don’t know Christ or are stuck in their faith?
- Are we content with where we are at spiritually or hungry to advance and grow spiritually?
- Are we as a church trying to keep what we have instead of reaching un-churched people or people that have given up on church?
- If the local church is the hope of the world, then I want to invite you to fully participate in advancing the church. Find a church where you can:
o Attend, volunteer, give, connect, pray and take responsibility for all your relationships. Find a place where your challenged, and encouraged to grow and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Find a place where your children love going and are learning and growing and connecting with God and helping you as a parent to teach them about faith.
o Commit to be both deep by doing what God tells us to do, loving well and wide by investing in people.