By Bill Hall, National Director, Canada
I have been blessed to meet many people who have been an inspiration to me. One person I met on several occasions was a well-known Canadian actor who, unbeknown to many of his fans, once lived on the streets of Winnipeg, Canada. Because he is no stranger to poverty and the lifestyle that ferments a spirit of hopelessness, he and his wife put comfort behind them in November and December, and tour Canada and the Northern United States to raise money for local food banks. They put up with lost luggage, strange beds, and long days on the road in order that others may be fed.
I was reflecting on his example when thinking about church, and I had to ask how much effort we put into reaching the “lost.” In my ministerial circles—inside and outside our denomination—I often hear the expression, “Well my congregation will never do something like that,” when confronted with having to give up something in order to more effectively reach out into the community with the gospel message.
The “that” may be a change in worship music or worship style, volunteering in the community, moving the church to a different location to reach a different ethnic or economic group, or even changing the day or days when a congregation gets together to worship. When someone tells me “days don’t matter,” I respond, “They don’t matter to whom? Because they certainly matter to the people your congregation is trying to reach.”
What “that” are you and your congregation concerned about changing?
Let’s be honest; many of us hate change when it comes to church. Start messing around with the way we do church and you start messing around with the way we experience and relate to God. I get that, but sometimes I think our focus on “us” and our preferences blinds us to opportunities where the Holy Spirit is leading.
One of my favorite worship songs is “The Heart of Worship”. The chorus goes like this:
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
Worship has more to do with Jesus than about us. Yet, our many worship songs are more focused on us. I would like to take this line of reasoning a bit further. Many times, we as “churched” people get rather selfish about when we worship, where we worship, what day we worship, etc. Just like worship is really about Jesus, so is church—but we often act like the church exists just for us. We like our church the way it is; it’s a place to sing, to learn and to be with our friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in the importance of being a part of a healthy Christian community. We all need the community of believers for support in our Christian journey. But if we think the church is all about us, we are missing an important aspect of Christianity.
Recently I was reviewing the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi when something struck me. Simply put, Paul gave up everything for the sake of Jesus. Remember what he said:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (Philippians 3:4-8)
Paul was willing to walk away from his heritage, and the way he had always worshiped God (or did church), to reach those on the “outside” with this important message of life. We may quickly read over this point but think about it: What must it have been like for a “Pharisee of the Pharisees” to walk away from his culture in order to reach out to those who were considered by his fellow Jews to be unclean and untouchable? Imagine what it was like to give up on those things that identified you as one of the “people of God.”
Paul through his actions showed those around him that his ministry was all about them. His life was all about preaching about Christ and him crucified. As Christians we have been given an unimaginable gift, eternal life (John 3:14-16). And we live in world that is in turmoil and people need to know they have access to that same gift.
We often say with our lips that we want to reach those outside the doors of our church, but something deep inside of us may be preventing us from taking the steps we need to make to make this a reality.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- What am I willing to give up in order to reach this hurting world with the ultimate message of life?
- What changes am I willing to make (or accept) in order for my congregation to make an impact in the community we meet and serve?
- What sacred cows do I hold near and dear to my heart that prevent me from being an effective messenger of the gospel?
- How generous am I willing to be with my life in order to share with others the generosity shown to me?
May the generosity of God show us the way to share his generosity with others.