It’s time to wake up again. People struggle with addiction, homelessness, depression, anxiety, pornography, lust, anger, greed, and all sorts of issues you are well aware of yet do little to address. You want people to worship Jesus, which is good, but you are not willing to invest time or resources into helping someone in need. Even worse, you define someone in need as those you despise–those who find themselves living on the streets or in homeless shelters. You are bankrupt if you have no desire to help those created in the image of God for whom Jesus came and died to rescue. The opportunity is endless. You know that the need is far greater than those who are financially poor or have burned familial ties. It’s not confined to those who are served at soup kitchens or shelters; it’s much more pervasive than that which is so apparent. Many people in need drive nice cars, live in fine neighborhoods and smile when asked how it’s going.
Dear church, please return to your task of equipping the saints. There are those in your congregations who wake up every morning with a sense that they are their brother’s keeper, that they must do something to help someone else. They are truly those who find Jesus in a world gone mad with idolatry. These Christ-followers go about their work with a sense of calling and are in touch with gifts given by the Spirit. These faithful are most often unseen because they do not shine a light on themselves. They need your support and encouragement more now than ever.
Sadly, most are in a world of self-centered activism, which believes they will earn favor by winning a perfect attendance award or “saving” someone else. When we behave this way, we are lost in religion. Many of this group can point to references in the Bible that identify reprehensible activities, interpret Scripture in multiple languages, cross-referenced to demonstrate their hours of study, yet are unwilling to put words into action. Stop. Enough.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:19-22, 27
I, too, am guilty
How can I be so emotional about these observations? It’s simple. I’m a product of the system that created scores of Christians without teaching them how to follow Christ. We learned that grace is cheap, that we could count “salvations” achieved as if playing a video game. My own words convict me. In the last few years, I have begun to see what is possible by connecting passionate people to Christ-centered missional activities. This is most easily demonstrated on the street, but that’s just where it’s most visible.
The journey begins before we take the first step. I call this Step Zero. I’ll explain more in a separate post, but here’s a brief description. When we receive Christ, when the Spirit enters and radically changes us, we are reborn. Part of that birth is the giving of gifts by the Spirit for the building up of the Church. Christ’s church. Not a building or human-led organization, but the big-C Church. Most churches have an assimilation process designed to help navigate this journey. I know about this from my experience as a staff member of several churches. The sad reality is that most of the effort focuses on serving the little-c church. While much of this activity is based on good intentions, it most often misses Step Zero. When we invest the time and energy into helping people figure out Step Zero, we set them up for huge Kingdom wins for the big-C Church.
Doing Life Together — Truly Loving our Neighbors
What about affordable housing, childcare, homelessness, employment, transportation, medical needs, etc.? Instead of what can’t be done, let’s realize what can happen. Here are some examples:
- If every church organization had a single house that could shelter four people, we would have no homelessness.
- If someone in every church adopted one child, we would radically change the foster care system, eliminate a large percentage of criminal activity, have a profoundly positive impact on addiction, and much more. No more unwanted children!
- If a handful of people in each church reached out to young parents and helped nurture their children, we would eliminate the need for affordable childcare.
The list goes on and on. It’s all based on loving our neighbor, and it begins with knowing your neighbor.
The key is Step Zero. These ifs are based on each being truly Christ-centered with people working within their Spirit-powered gifts. For example, if your heart burns for kids left in the foster care system, learn how to adopt a child.
Imagine a world where churches took care of just these three things. Once we begin, there is no stopping such a vibrant church. People would eagerly flock to churches that love and care for people this radically. We would have to figure out how to train and equip people for getting better at each of the things they’ve been called to do. Church staff and volunteers will need to invest incredible amounts of time, energy, and money into people and communities for support.
We don’t need another government program. Instead, we need wise and shrewd managers to figure out how to make programs work for our benefit, not the other way around. We need to get involved in politics not to see our name on a ballot but to make sure our view is properly represented in political decisions. If we withdraw, we will be removed. Don’t miss this last point. We are in this world, but not of this world.
True Worship Gatherings
Then, my friend, when we get together to worship corporately, it would be a fantastic event! People who have been giving all week long within their Spirit-given gifts would be worshipping the One True Lord of all with everything they’ve got. God’s word would powerfully uplift, encourage, and equip the saints for another week of battling against the enemies in this world.
Do not expect others to accept these thoughts readily. You should expect resistance. As you begin to put these ideas into practice, you will make mistakes. It will be painful, embarrassing, even costly. Jesus, in some of his last words to the disciples, left them with this assurance:
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:18-19
The ensuing verses explain how the Spirit will provide everything we need.
I’m here to declare it is worth the cost. Be willing to take a risk for an eternal reward. Think more about the next generation than the one that fills the pews or watches sermons online. Empower and equip. The Spirit is ready and willing. One of the other most important messages Jesus gave to his disciples is something I still have a hard time understanding:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14
Dear church, I know you believe in Jesus, but do you remember this promise? Do you still weep when you read, “And the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10)?
All things are possible, but not everything is beneficial. Dear church, it’s time to rethink your “come and see” approach by encouraging everyone to “go and do” that which the Spirit has called each person.
Finally, dear church, I love you. These words are hard to say and most likely difficult to accept. I cry when I read John’s words at the beginning of Revelation. So many large and worldly churches have a voice in leading people astray. Please take time to insert your church’s name in Revelation 2 and 3, then ask for forgiveness and move forward today.
Dear God, help us to seek first your Kingdom. Give us the courage, strength, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and mostly, the love to carry out your work to each and every person in our midst. Amen.