Ten Phrases that Stunt Church Growth

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A healthy church is a church that is actively trying to reach out into their community and share the gospel with the world around them. Most churches say they want to grow, but are they really in the mindset to facilitate that growth?

Our words have huge implications on our actions for our words reflect the attitudes that inspire what we do. If we speak negatively it is because we are thinking negatively. Positive words come from a heart with positive motivations. A positive person is much more likely to succeed at any venture than a negative one.

As we seek to help the church grow we must remember that our words have bearing on our success. I’ve compiled a list of ten phrases that hurt a church’s ability to grow. These phrases can be said by the members, but they are especially harmful if the leadership begins to reflect these things.

#10 We don’t want to be like THEM
The head of the church should be Jesus. The guide for the church should be the scriptures. If we are scared to follow the scriptures because of it making us look like another group of Christians then that will keep us from following the truth. Worse yet, we have freedom in Christ. If we are unwilling to exercise our freedom out of fear of being associated with another denomination then that shows our lack of unity within the body of Christ. New people who see this are repelled at our lack of vision and lack of love for those who are our brothers and sisters.

Instead of allowing this phrase to control our thinking we need to follow the guidance of the Spirit. As we follow His lead, He will guide the church to follow the desires of Jesus. When that happens growth is inevitable for it is the will of Christ that everyone is reached for the sake of the gospel.

#9 Who are all these new people?
This phrase may seem counter-intuitive. I mean, if you’re having new people then aren’t you growing? Yes, a church that has new people is growing, but if the established membership isn’t taking the time to invest in relationships with these new people then they will soon be gone. People leave the church for a myriad of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they don’t belong – there’s no way for them to get plugged in.

In our desire to grow we must close the proverbial back door. If our core group isn’t actively engaging our new members and visitors beyond just the superficial “Hey, my name is…” on Sunday morning then we are maintaining a clique.

Instead of asking who these new people are, why not go meet them? Invite them to lunch. Invite them to your house. Spend more than ten minutes visiting with them. Then see how they blossom as members.

#8 THEY tried this and it didn’t work out
It’s very common for churches to look at programming and ideas that other congregations or groups have tried. In the process of doing that we often see not just the success stories but the things that failed as well. This doesn’t mean that the program or idea won’t work with your church; it just means that it didn’t work for them. By the nature of the fact that you have different people than “they” do you will have a different outcome.

So much of our endeavors have to begin with faith. Do we believe that this is the direction God is leading us? If so, then He will help us succeed. If it is not then it will fail.

Failure doesn’t have to be a problem either. A church that is actively trying new things to reach out to the community is showing that they care for the community. If an idea fails it’s OK. The community still sees that the church is trying. What really matters is what we do with that failure. If we use it to make excuses to not try something new then we have truly failed. If we use it to start again by learning from our mistakes then the failure is actually a success.

#7 I wish SOMEONE would do ______
Fill in the blank. There are so many things to do. If you look around I’m sure you’ll see opportunities to serve, opportunities for outreach, and opportunities to help others grow. Each of these opportunities is a gift that has been given to you. God has created YOU with a vision for those needs.

When we look to someone else to fill the needs that God has shown us then we have effectively shut down God’s plan for that vision. If the people within a church are looking to the preacher or the leadership to do everything then they are crippling the potential for the church to be an active, living organism.

The apostle, Paul, wrote several times about the church being a body, and each part has a job to do. You have a purpose. There are things, needs, that only you will see. If you don’t do those things – if you don’t meet those needs – then they will probably be forgotten and never accomplished. Don’t pass the buck. Don’t procrastinate hoping someone else will do it. When the whole church is working together in a myriad of purposes and services then there is health as all the needs are being met. That is a church that will grow because everyone has a part to play. That church will grow numerically, but even more importantly, it will grow spiritually as it begins to look like the bride of the greatest servant who ever lived, Jesus.

#6 I’m not sure they’re dependable enough
As a church grows the new members will inevitably want to get involved. This is healthy and vital for the church to function as a church. It is important for those who have been around for a long time to get to know the new people. It is also important for those new people to be plugged in where they are needed and where their gifts are.

When a new person comes in it can be an awkward transitionary time within the church. The leadership wants to protect the flock and make sure it gets fed, and the new people want to get involved.

One of the greatest things anyone ever did for me was to go out on a limb and give me a responsibility that I had never taken on before. That responsibility took me out of the pew as a consumer and brought me into a ministry opportunity. I was in a sink or swim situation. The church that did that showed great faith in me. It was the beginning of my journey into ministry.

We need to be people of love, and love hopes for the best in other people. As we grow we must be willing to step out on that limb and give new people responsibility. We need to be empowering people to grow into leaders within the church. We need to have faith in the people around us.

I fail jesus daily, but he still calls me to be a minister of his gospel. I should treat others with that kind of faith in them. When I refuse to extend that faith in them I prove to them that I don’t truly love them, and that cripples a church.

#5 There’s no one to take our place
This phrase goes hand in hand with the last one and even the next one. If we don’t see the potential in others then we will not begin to shift the power and responsibility we’ve been given to the next generation of leaders. This cripples a church’s ability to move forward with fresh vision and relevant leadership.

If a leader at any level – teacher, maid, secretary, elder, deacon, preacher, volunteer, etc… – sees the potential for a vacuum if they were to quit, then they need to be actively training others to take their place. No one person needs to be irreplaceable in the church. It is not our job to make it so that the church couldn’t function without us. What we should all be doing is bringing people alongside us who see what we do and grow into being the next person to do our job. This is apprenticeship.

This requires us to have faith in others. It requires that invest into the lives of others. It requires us to not be thirsty for power or influence. Remember, you’re not the savior of your church, Jesus is.

#4 I’m tired…or…I’ve done my time
It you don’t have faith in other people, and you can’t see any potential for someone to take your place, then you probably feel tired. If you’ve taught Sunday school for twenty years you probably feel tired. But if the next generation is going to be trained to step in and give you relief then, first, you need to do one more thing – train.

We are all called to work hard as children of God to serve one another in love, but if you’re 29 or 99, and you still have breath and strength, you’re not finished with the work God has given you to do. This is why we look forward with great anticipation to the rest that God offers us in heaven. But we must not live as though we are already there. I’ve heard it said that some people are “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good”.

If you’re tired, hang in there. As you train people to take your place you’ll have a lighter load. One day you may even get to take a break, but don’t make it permanent. The church needs your talents.

Oh, and if you’re complaining that you’re tired and someone offers to take your place then give it to them. Church is not about holding on to power and authority. It’s not about position and politics. God is constantly raising up new generations of people to carry the torch that those who have come before have done so well to carry.

#3 We’ve always done it this way
Ok, first of all, no you haven’t. Everything was new at some point in time. So let’s be honest with this statement.

Second of all it is OK to like what we are doing. When what we are doing is not effective in reaching the lost for Jesus then what we are doing is NOT OK.

As new people come in to a church they are going to be trying to figure out what the unspoken traditions are of that church. For many of these new people these traditions will make no sense whatsoever. We need to be honest enough to recognize that traditions are just that – traditions. They’re not scriptural mandates.

A tradition is only good as long as it is effective. Making you feel good is not the standard to which effectiveness is measured.

Are the people growing spiritually? Is the church growing numerically? Are people being pointed to Jesus? Do the people love one another? If the answers to these questions is “yes” then great, but if they’re “no” then something has to change. Please, do not hijack the growth of the church by requiring it to never change. As the culture changes so do the ways the church needs to function in order to be able to speak to that culture. The message has to stay the same – the gospel never changes – but the methods need to be constantly evaluated for a church to continue to grow.

#2 We’ve never done that before
This phrase is similar to the last one, but it doesn’t just call out change of current traditions, it calls out new additions to programming or ideas – new traditions.

Jesus calls us to have faith. He also sent us His Spirit to be our guide. The Spirit cannot be put in a box or controlled. He guides the church as He sees need. We must be willing to try new things as the Spirit leads.

We also must remember that trying new things leads to new successes and failures. If the failures are learned from then they are successes as well. As long as the new thing doesn’t take the church away from the headship of Christ and the authority of His word then there is freedom to try new things.

A church that never tries new things is a church that is slipping further and further away from its ability to connect to people in the world today. Change is inevitable. If we don’t embrace it then the change that will eventually happen is the closing of our church doors.

#1 I’m afraid…
I saved this one for last because it is the summation of pretty much every other phrase in this list. If you think about it every other phrase is said because there is a fear of the unknown.

Jesus said multiple times, “don’t be afraid; just believe.” “Oh you of little faith, why are you so afraid?” He seems to put faith and fear as opposites of one another.

We claim to believe that God works in our lives daily. Romans 8:28 says he is working to make all things good – even our mistakes and failures. Do we believe it? If we do then we don’t have to be afraid. If we believe it then we can move forward into an unknown future with confidence that God will guide us and help us when we fail. If we have faith in Him then we remember that it is His church and not ours.

If you are functioning in fear, and you recognize that, then you may not be the best person to be in a leadership position at this time. Being careful is good, but being afraid of what may come is bad. A negative person speaking out of fear can bring the momentum of the church to a screeching halt.

Maybe you’re in a leadership role, and you’re afraid of what might come. You must be super-careful with your words. Use that fear to be thorough, but don’t allow that fear to be verbalized. Your words might catch on like wildfire and create fear in others. Remember, fear and faith are opposites.

Conclusion
Having worked in many churches over the years I’ve heard these phrases many times. This is not an exhaustive explanation of why each of these is detrimental to the church. It is just a taste. Most of you, however, can see without much effort why each of these ways of thinking is harmful.

Sure, there are dangers in the future. I absolutely believe that not everyone is trustworthy, but I want to find out who is and who is not by trusting them and allowing them to prove or disprove themselves outside my assumptions. I know we can’t do everything, and I know that some things aren’t healthy for the church, but if a church functions with an inward-focused, fear-driven mindset then it will cripple itself before it even has a chance.

I’m glad to see the church where I serve growing. Many of you are in growing churches, but I want us to be ever-mindful of just how easy it is for our minds to slip into places that will cause us to stunt the growth of the church.

Maybe you’ve thought of other phrases that show a crippling mindset in the church. Feel free to share them in the comments below. Maybe you disagree. That’s alright by me. These are just phrases I’ve heard in many places that are said by people who are unintentionally hurting the potential for growth in those places.

May the church that belongs to Jesus grow as people learn to love Him and love one another. May the church grow as it seeks new ways to engage individuals and communities. May the church grow as the faith of its members increases. And may we all grow into the image of Jesus as the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out.


Any ole excuse will do…

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In Luke 14, Jesus tells an odd little story.  It’s also mentioned in Matthew 22.

In this story, a rich man holds a great banquet, not unlike a party of today, and he invites all his friends and relatives and coworkers and other influential people, but one-by-one they all make excuses as to why they can’t come.  This hurts the master, and frustrates him too, so he orders the servants to go out and drag in all the poor and oppressed people off the streets of his town.  After they do all that, he has them go out into the countryside and get all those people too so that the party would be a full success.

Jesus said this is like the kingdom of heaven, and I believe it.

First of all, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are terms that are interchangeable for the same concept.  This is the rule or reign of God in our lives here on earth that causes us to be citizens of heaven.  Like the song says, “This world is not my home…”

We then, as Christians, are citizens of heaven, and you know we are citizens when you see the reign of God in our lives.  However, there are many people today who are just like these townsfolk in Luke 14.

These people make excuse after excuse as to why they shouldn’t attend the banquet.  One has some new oxen and needs to try them out.  One just bought a field and needs to go inspect it.  One just got married.

People today make similar excuses when faced with the decision of whether or not to follow God’s guidance in their life.  I see it all the time.  Someone has an opportunity to serve in some capacity to help others, but they are tired or have a party to go to.  Someone has an opportunity to tell someone else about Jesus, but they just aren’t gifted in that way – let someone else do it.  Someone has an opportunity to be at church with the rest of the kingdom of God, but it’s too early or too dull or too whatever.

As Christians, we are called to live as Children of God.  We are expected to be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, but this kingdom is not a democracy.  It is a totalitarian dictatorship with God as supreme ruler.  The difference here that makes it attractive, however, is that the citizens get pardon after pardon because of the King’s Son.  The citizens are treated with respect and love.  The citizens were created by the King, and the King knows how each citizen should live to have the best life possible – eternal life.

So what kind of citizen are you?  Do you make excuse after excuse as to why you don’t need to do more than attend church every now and again?  Or are you the kind of citizen who follows God and allows Him to reign in your life?

I think that you’ll find the latter option to be the most fulfilling, rewarding existence possible.  Just today I heard someone say that you’ll never find happiness through self seeking.  It seems that it would work out great to please yourself in order to be happy, but it actually works quite the opposite.

So seek God and His reign in your life, and stop making excuses about it.  Then, get to the banquet – we have one every Sunday (we call it communion).


Killing Churches Daily

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There is one thing that tears up churches more than any other thing. In fact this may be the only reason churches split. What is it? It is a lack of conflict resolution skills.

If you are around people for very long then there will come a time when you will disagree with them. They may say or do something you do not like. They may NOT say or do something, and you might think they should. Maybe you think they should have listened to your advice or come to you for help but they didn’t. Now you’re upset.

Why? We usually get upset out of an elevated sense of self-worth. We see our ideas, actions, motives, etc. as being more pure or better than someone around us.

This is not love. This is pride. Pride is the opposite of love because pride has to do with selfishness, and love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13).

So, now you’re upset, and what do you do? You let it simmer inside. You think of all the stupid reasons that other imbecile should have done or said or not done whatever it is that you’re upset about. Then you find another friend and talk with them about this issue. Your friend agrees with you, and now they’re upset with this individual. By the way, that’s gossip and slander (2 Cor. 12:20). Then the rumor-mill starts, and before you know it there is a whole army of people looking for blood from this individual.

Their initial action may or may not have been wrong, but the subsequent actions are sinful and devastating to the church that belongs to Christ.

So what do we do? Jesus tells us what to do if someone sins against us:

Matthew 18:15-17
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Note that this isn’t them offending us. We can be offended, but if they haven’t sinned against us, then we need to check our pride. If we are holding a grudge based on something we are offended by, then we need to drop it and love our brother or sister.

But what if we sinned against them or even cause some strife against them and they aren’t mature enough to come to us first? Jesus addresses that too:

Matthew 5:23-24
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Notice that Jesus wants us to be about the ministry of reconciliation before we are able to come to him in worship.

If we are holding grudges against our brothers and sisters in Christ that isn’t love. We need to repent because we don’t love God if we aren’t loving our brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20-21).

So, let’s be people who practice the art of conflict resolution in love. Let’s keep our anger and pride in check. You are God’s gift to the church but you don’t have to remind the church of it. You are smart and have great ideas, but so do others. You may think a person should do something, but they’ll never know until you tell them in love. You may not like the actions of another, but you cannot control them – you can only control yourself and your reaction to them. Remember that you are all equal in God’s sight and equally loved by Him.

If we can remember that our love for them is more important than our need to be right then we will be able to get along just fine.

Jesus said the world will know that He is the messiah by our love for one another and our unity with one another (John 13, 17). Let’s be a shining example of that to the world around us.


Growing in the Desert

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Living in the desert has it’s pros and cons. I love the scenery and the open spaces. I love the sunsets and the monsoon storms. I love the variety of colors in the terrain all around us. I used to think that the desert meant sand dunes and lifeless barrenness, but I now know how wrong that assumption truly is.

One of the things that is hard about living in the desert is the immense amount of sand. People talk about dirt of varying types and textures, but my yard is just primarily sand. When the wind blows hard there is dust everywhere – sand. Even the rock isn’t truly rock here but solidified sand.

Have you ever tried to grow things in sand. My yard is sand with a little clay and not much of any kind of nutrients. There is very little that grows here without being super-hearty.

It is possible to grow things here, but in order to do so we have to add nutrient-rich soil to the mix and provide plenty of water. Even our air is super-dry, so water is an absolute must in the desert in order to make things grow.

But things can grow here. We are successfully growing strawberries and tomatoes and mint and chives and pole beans. If you drive around you’ll find people growing all sorts of wonderful things in the middle of the desert.

This morning as I was watering our plants I couldn’t help but think of the desert of the world in which we live. Jesus provides sustenance and living water but so many people are trying to grow and live without that living water. You can see it in their lives that they are thirsty for something different, something more.

Our children are especially thirsty for this. When you have a young plant it needs even more water to survive than when it is mature. The same is true for our children. If we aren’t feeding them this life-giving water then the world will fill them with the poison of selfishness.

How will we grow without Jesus? How will the kingdom grow without our children growing up in the knowledge of the One who gives life to all mankind? The world is focused on our children. It wants to win them over to its purposes and pleasures. If we want our children to have true life we are going to need to be stronger and more intentional than the world around us.

This doesn’t mean taking them out of the world, but it does mean modeling to them a lifestyle that is healthy from a constant diet of the word of God and the water of life.

If you’re not feeding on the word of God (the bible) and soaking in the water of life (the Holy Spirit) then you’re malnourished yourself. Your life is a desert. Jesus wants you to be a healthy garden filled with the fruit of His Spirit. As you grow into that beautiful garden, your children and other children you’re around will want to grow into little gardens themselves.

We can grow in the desert, but it has to be intentional. His Word is real food, and His Spirit is life-giving water. Let’s feast together and become a garden that transforms this desert back into the garden God originally intended it to be.


On the Border of Response

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The world is a tumultuous place. Wars are raging and beginning all over the place. Innocent people are being killed for any and every reason. Laws are being broken in every nation. Nations are rising up against nations. Governments are being overthrown. How are we to act?

In our nation alone there is controversy on every front. From the Hobby Lobby fight to the flood at the border, our nation is becoming increasingly divided. Everyone has opinions on the hot-button topics like gun control, common core, abortion, immigration reform, military action on foreign soil, etc.

How are we, Christians, to respond to a world as conflicted as the one in which we live?

The first place we should be is on our knees in prayer. If you believe that God is not distant and that He cares for us and the rest of His creation, then you need to be asking Him to intervene.

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This is, I believe, our first response to a world as broken as ours. We need healing. We need forgiveness – not just as individuals but as a nation. We need repentance from all people including those (maybe especially those) in our governmental leadership.

The next thing we need to do is become aware. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t take a smart man to tell that the news sources from which we get most of our news are NOT unbiased. In fact, it is hard to find truly unbiased news from any source these days. If I tell you a bit of news then it is important to me because of my political or moral views on a particular issue. I am not unbiased. Therefore the news I share is not unbiased.

That being said we still need to know what is going on around us. These days we have the ability to read news information from a wide variety of sources. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are inundated with the latest news from around the world. If we don’t know what is going on around us then how can we know how to engage the culture or influence change as needed? If we aren’t knowledgable then it is easy for us to be duped by the first wind of teaching to come by.

This includes your ability to know what your Father in Heaven has planned for you. The world is constantly trying to convince you of things that are contrary to the word of God. It is trying to teach you that these commands are barbaric and can’t have come from a god but from mere men. Search within the scriptures. Do not be ignorant of the world around you. You will find that those who love according to the Word of God have a life of fulfillment in this world and in the world to come.

Finally we are to be people of action. We need to be sharing the good news of grace and forgiveness through Jesus to all our friends and contacts. We need to be working daily to change the world by bringing one person at a time to Jesus. Don’t wait for the preacher. This is your calling. Matthew 28:18-20 is for you as well as me.

We also need to be people of action in how we influence our government. One of the greatest things about living in the USA is our ability to vote on almost everything. If you like what is going on then vote for more of the same. If you are disgruntled then vote to change things. You have been given a voice. As Christians this is a great opportunity for us to influence our nation. If we aren’t vocal with our votes then we are allowing the darkness to rule all around. Sometimes voting also happens with out participation or lack thereof. I’m not telling you which political way to vote, but you need to vote.

If this nation does decline – if the darkness grows and Christians are persecuted – then we still have hope in the fact that we are part of a bigger kingdom. The kingdom of God has no physical borders. It is not a matter of here or there but is within you. Live like kingdom citizens wherever you are no matter the outcome of your physical country.

So, change the world. And if it changes for the worse, then have hope in knowing that no one can ever take away your citizenship in the kingdom of God.


Bringing Neighbor Back to the Hood

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I live in a great neighborhood. It’s relatively peaceful. Sure, from time to time there is excitement and I may need to call the police on someone causing mischief, but I rarely ever feel like this neighborhood is dangerous. It’s a great neighborhood for raising my kids.

The church building where I preach on Sundays and Wednesdays is in this neighborhood. I find this to be super convenient, but as I look at the demographics of our church membership I see very few people who come from within our neighborhood.

I know my next door neighbors. I know the family across the street and a few doors down from them too. I know a few of the neighbors behind the church building by name. Yet, I don’t have a real, meaningful relationship with any of them.

I feel pretty convicted about this.

You see, this church has functioned from this location for many many years. I’m not sure how many preachers were here before me, but our congregation is mostly made up of people who live outside our neighborhood and even our town.

It’s time for this to change.

As Christians, we are called to live in the world around us in such a way that people know that Jesus is the messiah. We aren’t called to be people who shrink back in fear or even in routine and make excuses for why we don’t know our neighbors.

I believe that if a church has a building then the primary mission field of that church should be the neighborhood the building is located within. Each member should be missionaries within their own neighborhoods as well, but if the church doesn’t have a good relationship with its neighbors, then what kind of message does that portray?

Some of you may know people who live in the neighborhood around the church building. Some of you may even live in this same neighborhood. What can you do to enhance our ability to reach out locally? What should we do as a church to help you reach your friends and neighbors?

Cities aren’t taken for The Lord without strategy. When Jesus sent out the apostles after the resurrection, He told them they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem (where they currently were), in Judaea and Samaria (the outlying towns and regions), and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

As a church, we should follow the same pattern. We should be intentionally engaging the neighborhood where our facilities are located first. Then we should move into other neighborhoods in the town where our congregation gathers. After that, when that town is reached, we should move into other towns. When all of that is done, then we should be sending out people to far off regions.

Engaging our neighborhood doesn’t mean door-knocking either. It means living and working and functioning within that neighborhood in such a way that relationships are built and love is shown. It is not engaging in handouts; it is inviting people into community. Engaging a neighborhood means you’re loving your neighbor with no strings attached. When they see your intentional, counter-cultural way of love, they’re going to want to know why you’re like that. Then you have been invited by them to tell them of the One who loved you first, Jesus Christ.

So, here’s our situation. We are a church that isn’t truly engaging our neighborhood. That wasn’t Jesus’ plan for us. How can we make a change here? The Aztec church of Christ puts on a block party once a year, and that is gaining popularity. What else can we do to truly engage on personal levels to love our neighbors?

We are a church trying to love God, love others, and be like Jesus. So let’s start taking steps to truly do these things.

Do you have an idea on how to reach out to the neighborhood around our congregation? Maybe you’re reading this online and you have ideas for how to begin this where you live. Talk to your pastor(s). But don’t just give suggestions; volunteer to help make those suggestions a reality.

To win a city you begin with a neighbor.


They Aren’t Who They Say They Are

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This will not be my most popular article.

Are you a Christian? If you say yes, then this article is for you. If not, you are welcome to read this because you may get a glimpse into what this life is all about, but you should know that the standard set before us in this article is not for you…not yet. Hopefully, however, you will find that the Savior, Jesus, is well worth whatever it takes to seek Him.

So, are you still with me? Good!

As humans, we have a tendency toward brokenness. If you look at the world around us you will see that we are a broken species living broken lives in a broken environment that we choose broken procedures to try to repair to a less broken status. Because we are a messed up people, then when we do things, by our nature, we mess them up.

This is true of our ability to follow Christ.

We are called to be Christians, but for many people this is merely a moniker, a title that gives us religious clout in whatever circles we desire to reveal that title to others. We are but fans of the One to whom we declared our allegiance when we became Christians.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and being His follower. Unfortunately, since the beginning of Christianity, the majority of people who have claimed His forgiveness have been not much more than fans.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re saying, “not me!” I hope so, but let’s look at the calling to which you were called.

First of all, Sunday morning worship services and Wednesday night classes are not the penultimate experiences of the Christian life. We are not called to worship on Sunday and Wednesday only. We are called to offer our bodies daily as living sacrifices to God. Worship is supposed to come from us all day every day. In many churches the people who do show up barely even sing anyway, and the attendance on Sunday morning is considerably different than the actual church membership roster. However, this is only a small sampling of evidence for fandom.

What have you sacrificed/given up for Christ? When we are called to Christ, we are called to die to ourselves. In fact, Jesus says we must take up our own cross. He wants us to come to Him and die with him. Can you imagine if the new church slogan was “Come and Die”? Would you want to worship with that group? You would if you understood what Jesus was calling you to.

He is not calling you to a life of luxury. If he were, would he have spent his life and ministry with no home and little food? Wouldn’t he have had a great financial base with which to do ministry?

He didn’t really focus on wealth and prosperity. In fact, he said as a promise that if you follow him you are guaranteed hardship as a result. Have you suffered hardship because of Christ? If you haven’t, then are you truly following him the way you are called to do so?

He doesn’t call us to live for him when it’s convenient. He doesn’t call us to live for him when we aren’t at work or school or doing something else important. He doesn’t call us to go on mission trips and to revival weekends. He calls us to live in mission wherever we are all day every day. We are called daily to revival as we seek His will for our lives.

In America, the American dream of prosperity and status has had an open door into the mindsets of our churches, and it won’t be until we rid ourselves of the needs and desires for things of this world that we can truly put our hand to the plow and not look back.

The world is watching. Recently I was told by a couple of different people that the reason they didn’t want to come to Christ is that they couldn’t see that it was doing anything special for His followers. That is sad, and it convicts me on so many levels.

You aren’t called to be a fan of Jesus. You are called to be a follower, and following means going where He would go and where He is calling. He went to the broken and hurting and dirty people of his day. He went to the poor and the lame. He went out into the world and didn’t associate with the religious cliques of his time. He is calling you to follow him there. He is calling you to get uncomfortable for Him. He is calling you out of YOUR life and into HIS.

Jesus knew this would be tough, and he knew you would have to make some hard choices. Some of you may even have to reject your family because you choose Jesus over them. You may have to change jobs or friends. You may have to tell your boss you can’t work at certain times because you are dedicated to something greater (and being with the saints on Sunday is something greater). I know of a farmer who dedicated to God that he wouldn’t work on Sunday even during the harvest, and he always got his crops in…in fact he had a bumper crop from that point forward.

When we follow Jesus the way he calls us to follow, then we can truly begin to live in the Eternal Life He is calling us to.

If you’re not willing to give yourself up in that way, then consider the choice. It’s time for all of us to stop pretending we are one thing and living another. Jesus spoke a lot about that too, and he said it to the religious folk of His day.

So, I hope you’re still with me. We have all fallen short of this, but through the grace of Jesus He helps us get back up and continue to dedicate our lives to Him. When you fail, don’t wallow in self pity. Stand back up! Jesus has already forgiven you.

Please share this with your friends who are Christians. Please make changes in your life as you truly seek Christ with all your heart. Let hypocrisy die in us as His Spirit comes alive in us.


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