July 17, 2017
Once upon a time I knew what it took to grow a church. Of course, we all know that the only stories that begin “once upon a time” are fairly tales. That I would know how to grow a church really was a fairy tale. In reality, I never knew as much as I thought I knew. It just took time and experience for me to realize it. And to realize that the Gospel deals more in the “what” of life than the “how.” “How” is a matter of getting good advice and developing good technique. People can go most anywhere for the “how” of life.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t a matter of technique. It’s not good advice; it’s Good News. The Good News is that in Jesus Christ, God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has accepted us, forgiven us, given us new life. Park church is healthy and growing; ministry opportunities are coming at us faster than we can process them. We have plenty of talented and energetic people working hard to help us step into these opportunities. The congregation I’ve been asked to temporarily serve has opportunities, but the people are older, and they are tired. Two very different sets of circumstances, but very similar problems. Both congregations have been recipients of good advice, but however good that advice may be, it cannot save.
King Jehoshaphat was surrounded and outnumbered by the enemy. It looked bad; real bad. So he did what most people do when they’re in deep weeds: he prayed. It wasn’t a fancy, formal prayer. It was a cry of desperation that resonates through the centuries: “LORD, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” In the days when I thought I knew what to do, I was unknowingly trusting in my own wisdom, which when dealing with people, is a pretty stupid thing to do. If I know what to do, you can bet my eyes aren’t on God, but on myself or the problem, neither of which hold out much hope. It is only when I don’t know what to do that my focus will be unwaveringly on God.
There is a great deal of freedom in this. I don’t have to be the expert; Lord knows, I’m not the Savior. I don’t have to come up with the answers. All I have to do is faithfully proclaim the Good News that there is hope and life when we trust in Jesus. And for that, I am thankful tonight.