Today our staff had a birthday party. Candles, cake, the whole thing. It was no ordinary birthday party. As Pastor Travis reminded us, Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” You see, today we were celebrating the spiritual birthdays of the four men who gave their lives to Christ at the men’s breakfast on Saturday. Also, in my mind I was also celebrating the 13 women who gave their lives to Christ at the women’s Christmas event last December. This is what our vision is all about; making disciples of Jesus!
This is an important time for us as a church body. We have launched a three year strategic vision to maximize our talents and resources to multiply committed followers of Jesus Christ. Until now, our initiatives, while they have been clearly communicated, have seemed perhaps to some to be intellectual constructs, or things that are important for us to know and remember; and they are! However, we’re about to implement some of the more visible and immediately tangible aspects of our vision, so I wanted to take a minute to lend some perspective.
This week we’re launching a new church name that is designed in part to reduce confusion for those who don’t understand or perhaps have negative impressions of the “Evangelical Free” church. In the weeks to come, we’ll begin a renovation of our main gathering areas for the purpose of updating our facility, making it more functional, attractive and inviting. So why are we doing this? As our vision suggests, we want to make more disciples for Jesus Christ.
It’s not that we have not been doing this already. As I mentioned, we’ve seen 17 decisions for Christ through the men’s and women’s ministries since December and who knows how many more (If you know of any, please let us know)! This should be our driving passion as a church body. This is what we need to keep in mind to fuel us onward into our vision because it is the reason we exist as a church. We want to see more of that! Wouldn’t it be great if we could have weekly spiritual birthday parties?!
In times of change like this, when we’re about to see the more tangible, visible aspects of our vision, it’s easy for us to get caught up in the details. To make our focus those things about our church experience that we personally enjoy. We want our building to look the way we like it. We want the music to look, feel and sound how we like it. We want the ministries to do all the things we like. We don’t want to break with tradition because it’s gotten us this far after all, and it’s the way we’ve always done it. In our culture, people often leave churches because of those seemingly surface things. There are as many opinions on them as there are people in our church. Even so, we must remember they are merely tools.
Every generation must wrestle with the question of what must be done to ensure the good news of Jesus Christ is spread to our communities, the world in our current generation and those to come. It is our primary directive, given to us by Jesus himself. Pursuit of the gospel requires a relentless outward focus and a willingness to use all of the tools available to us, however we need to use them to reach the lost. Even sometimes at the expense of our personal preferences.
Make no mistake, we must place a high priority on ministering to the needs of those whom God has graciously brought to our church, just as we have always done. We also want to increase our awareness, passion and efforts as a local church body around reaching the lost, which is our primary mission as a part of the larger body of Christ. No one gets a pass on that. Being “successful” as a church is impossible without each person being the hands and feet of Christ in our communities. THIS is where the rubber really meets the road in fulfilling our vision, and I’m excited to see how it will unfold for us in the months and years to come as we identify and implement a discipleship pathway. We must become a culture of disciples who make disciples.
So why am I saying all this? Simply a reminder as we begin to see the more visible aspects of our vision come together, to not get so caught up in the WHAT that we lose sight of the WHY. You may love what you’ll see happening soon, or you may dislike it. That’s okay. Even so, to the extent that either response takes your focus away from the reason for all of this, then you will have missed the mark. Let’s stay focused on the prize for the glory of God through Jesus Christ!