I love my church. I have loved it since the first day I "checked it out". From a man who once wanted nothing to do with the Church but eventually became a pastor in the Church for many years, seeing behind the curtain too many times, it says a lot that I really love my church.
My church is a plant of just a bit longer than a year, and it has been met with great growth and ministry to people and city. What intrigues me today are the conversations I have had ministry leaders from other churches in the surrounding areas. The most common question I typically get (in some form or another) is, "What are they doing over there?" Perhaps a few come from a bitter, frustrated, or maybe jealous place, but most of them come from a desire to reach their own congregations and communities. They want to know what churches like mine are doing differently than they are doing so that we might be able to reach more people.
There is something really grabbing hold of my heart today regarding this reality in the Church today, particularly in the American Church today. We have become too dependent upon our own ingenuity and not very dependent on Jesus. We chalk "success" up to Jesus, but the pathway there has little to do with our dependence upon Him. We are constantly in search of the better program, the flashier leader, the stronger principle, and we search for these things with a heart to reach people. I do believe that is true!
But my fear is Jesus might come back and be met with the same question asked by the Church in the novel, The Brothers Karamazov:
"Why have you come to disturb us?"
I am concerned not about Jesus coming and wrecking all that we have set up. I am concerned that even now, before He returns, we are so dependent on our own gifts, talents, and ingenuity that we as the Church are less and less dependent on Jesus.
Sure, we speak of Jesus and say things in His name. We even ask for miracles, but then we operate in ways to make miracles unnecessary. This ends up causing us to look at other churches who are drawing a larger number of people and wonder what ingenuity they are utilizing. We wonder what gimmicks and things they are doing differently than we.
Rarely do we look at our own devotion and utter dependence on Jesus Christ and His Spirit within us. Rarely do we look at our own community's dependence on Jesus day to day, and call THAT into question.
Any gathering of people can grow in number with the right ingenuity and gimmick; you don't need God to build a huge group of people.
The Church, on the other hand, desperately needs Jesus in order to become what It is intended to become. May we come to a point where Jesus' return will be met with total abandon. May we stop looking for the next ingenious church strategy, and instead start to call ourselves to fuller dependence on and listening to Jesus every day!