Reaching Out or Caring Within?

Which is more important, discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people?

I try to affirm any question because, like it’s always said, there are no wrong questions. Even the questions that seem out of place or misguided can lead us to greater truth.

Eventually.

It’s like taking the long, long, long way home. Again, we can get to truth through those. And it’s when we do that we realize we should’ve been asking better questions all along.

So, is discipling the people you have in church or reaching new people more important? It’s a misguided question. How do you complete a breath if you only breathe in or breathe out? You need both. There’s no question.

How I’ve seen this play out is the overarching attitude that people take. On one hand, we should dedicate all our resources to the people who show up every week. They’re the ones who are here. They’re the ones who pay the bills. Yes, people have told me that we “owe it to them” to give them all our attention.

On the other hand, we should steer everything we do to those who are not yet here. They are the future. Our sole purpose is to preach the good news to those who have not heard it. The people already in church should grow up and get over themselves.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve heard that, too.

You might suspect I lean one way or the other. I consider myself a wobbler. I know there is a Spirit-filled purpose in both discipleship and reaching out. One moment I’m writing a devotional meant to deepen our discipleship. The next moment I’m having a conversation about life and faith with someone outside the church.

One is not more important than the other. Now, your spiritual gifts may lead you to emphasize one aspect. That’s great. That means you know what you’re spiritual gifts are and you’re learning how to use them.

God told the prophet Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Did you notice what God did?

He expanded Isaiah’s vision. Most likely, someone like Isaiah considered himself to be God’s mouthpiece to God’s people, Israel. And that’s what Isaiah did, he spoke to the people of God. The people might have thought God’s Messiah would share the same sole commission.

But the Lord’s plan included more. It was too light to only do one thing. So, Messiah would be a light to all nations. Is one more important? Of course not.

So, when it comes to our shared ministry, let’s not take the long way home. Here are a couple of questions that take us a little deeper.

As the church, if we aren’t reaching out to new people, how do we suppose God wants to reach them?

And if we aren’t discipling, what are we inviting people to join?

Let’s reflect on those questions and see where God leads us.

Stay blessed…john

God trusts you

“There’s good news and bad news,” the preacher said one Sunday morning.

“The good news is we have all the money we need to pay for our new building project.” The congregation applauded with excitement. “The bad news is,” he continued, “it’s still in your pockets.”

That’s an old preacher joke that makes most people in the pews chuckle.

When we pray to God, we expect God to hear us. That means we trust God to act. Just how God moves through prayer is left up to the Lord, but our trust is there nonetheless. But we also know God has expectations for us as well.

Can God trust us with kingdom ministry?

You don’t get to decide if God does. The Lord has already given each of us a ministry of reconciliation. What’s left to decide is how faithful you are going to be with it.

What are you doing with the spiritual gifts God gave you? How are you advancing the kingdom wherever you are? The good news is God brings hope and peace to people. The bad news is God often does that through us.

Now, once you see that God is willing to trust us with ministry, your attitude about it changes. Would you let just anyone house sit for you? Of course not. You want to make sure your home is in good hands.

When Christ ascended, he left us his ministry. What God gave to him he gifted to us. That is not bad news. That is a loving act of a loving God. God trusts us with his redeeming work.

He knew full well how we could mess things up. Glance through Christian history and you’ll wonder why he’d let us anywhere near his church. But he does.

Jesus promised his disciples they would not be orphaned. He would return to the Father but that didn’t mean they would be alone. The good news is Judas wanted to know how the world would know Jesus loved them. That’s a message worth sharing, right? This is the other Judas who asked, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus didn’t answer him directly. Instead, he said that those who love him will keep his commands. Also, the Holy Spirit would teach and remind the disciples what they need to say when the time came. All this is Jesus preparing the disciples for the bad news.

How will Christ reveal himself to the world? Through his disciples.

People who follow Jesus show the world what Jesus looks like. So, give ’em good news.

Stay blessed…john

U-turn toward peace

I’ve always wondered why peacemaking is not considered a spiritual gift. Jesus called the peacemakers among us blessed. There are people who seem to have a natural inclination toward peace. Those are the people that bless the rest of us as they show us the more peaceful way of Christ.

Let’s be honest.

As much as we say we want peace, we’ll make it difficult. A sermon or Spirit-filled prayer can inspire us to seek the peace of God one moment. We’ll feel inspired to do what it takes to live in peace with other people. Before we know it, we’re back to our waring ways.

Peacemaking doesn’t come that easy to a lot of us. It requires something of us we aren’t always willing to give. That’s right, making peace is something we have to be willing to do. I know we have the ability; we can make peace. 1 Peter 3:11 says that those who love life must “turn from evil and do good” and to “seek peace and pursue it.”

God doesn’t direct us where we can’t go.

So, what do we do if we aren’t those natural peacemaking people? According to what we just read from 1 Peter, we have to turn. I’m reminded of a title of a book I once read: God Allows U-Turns.

Amen to that.

But you can’t just tell an addict to stop, right? They need help. They need support. They need encouragement and love. That’s why we have the church, too. Those of us who aren’t prone to making peace learn by the witness of those others we are walking with in faith. We aren’t admiring them from afar. It’s easy to point to people like Mother Teresa or MLK and thank God for their work. We should be thankful for what they were able to accomplish.

But also look to the people the rest of the world will never know that are close to you. They should be in your church. And you should be walking with them. Also, within the fellowship of God’s family, the Holy Spirit inspires, corrects, leads and comforts us all.

James 3:18 says, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” That tells me we also need patience. Patience with others and with ourselves.

A harvest doesn’t appear. It grows. Much has happened before the harvest is ready. There’s been a lot of work to get to that moment. Think of the sweat, backaches and tiresome nights. Some days have been perfect for the work. Others have been disastrous.

Still, the work continued. Now, the blessing is the harvest itself.

Let that be our image today. If we seek peace, as hard as it is to do, there is a blessing of peace we will know. Isn’t that worth your u-turn?

Stay blessed…john