Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reclaiming the Lost - 5 Ways to Restore the Church

The hardest part of a task is the beginning. Writing that first sentence, running the first step, lifting the first weight, knocking down the first wall is half the battle. After we overcome the fear of the beginning, inertia starts to build and carries us through. As I wrote about yesterday, that can carry us to some really terrible directions.

Or we can use it for good.

The old couch can be made new again. The chalkboard of mistakes can be wiped clean. We are continually offered a new chance to start fresh, forgetting what has been left behind. The only thing that pulls us away is our own momentum.

red_scaffold (guess where berlin) by jonas_k, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jonas_k 

Here are five changes to transfer our momentum in positive and health directions:

1. Give up on numerical growth

Let's face the music -- numbers are a terrible indicator of church health. The number of butts in the seats on Sunday morning speak to popularity -- not spiritual health. They can get up and leave as easy as they sat down. Depending on numbers to indicate success is a unhealthy and unhelpful metric, and it only pushes leaders to focus more on the shock and popular methods, rather than journeying with people through the decades.

Jesus demonstrated something very different in His ministry. Read about it in John 6.

2. Take responsibility for your spiritual health

No one is going to pull you into heaven. You get there on the grace of God alone. No pastor can pray, teach or lead you into heaven. Theologians use two terms to describe our process of salvation: justification and sanctification. 

Justification was the act of Jesus dying on the cross -- we are justified before God and made holy through that one act.

Sanctification is a process that is more involved. It is the process of being made more like God, and it is not a single moment, but speaks to the Christian struggle. Day in and day out, you and the Holy Spirit walking side by side working on your flaws, your weaknesses and your sins.

If you look back on the past year, are you closer to God today than you were then? Do you look more like Jesus or are the two individuals indistinguishable? Dare to walk with God and let Him change you.

3. Stop neglecting your community

We have become a generation of drive by Christians. We drive by our communities to get to our bastions of faith, and then drive right past them again back to our homes. The poor, the broken, the widows and the orphans are standing in front of us.

Are you involved in setting these injustices right? Do you know the people in your community? Are you a part of the community that knows and cares about the people around them?

Do not mistake that for saying that you are a part of a community that talks about it. Actions speak a million words. God does not care about our good intentions, He demands our action.

4. Give up your desire for control

Jesus taught us to lay down our arms, to surrender our pride to Him. He led Israel out of Egypt and asked them to trust Him for food, shelter, water -- and He delivered. Now God is asking you to trust Him to lead you home to glory.

Yet we clutch at our sinful natures like a child to their blankie. It is immature, weak and petty. Like a man or woman reaching maturity, it is time to let go of our old comforts and walk boldly into our new calling.

Then you look like His Church.

5. Recognize you are the problem

You are the problem. So am I. We eagerly await the time when Jesus will return and we will be free from the sin that constricts our souls and tries to drag us away from Him.

So why do we spend so much time picking on other people's faults as though we were perfect? We worry about the smudge on their clothes when we are smeared in oil. Other's sin is just that -- theirs. When you are perfect, you earn a right to start judging them for theirs.

Walk humbly with one another and speak with a great deal of fear and oceans of love. You'll find that the problem that once drove you to madness fades away quickly. After all, when we are so unlovable, it becomes a simple matter to pour undeserved love on others.

What did I miss? How would you reclaim your church and community?

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