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ACTIVITY VERSUS ACTION

We stand at a time in the history of Christianity and the church where we must return to the basics. Have we lost our passion to pursue people who are far from God? Are we so focused on our programs, plans, and people that we have taken our eyes off of the harvest? We will leave it to others to decide whether the methods of evangelism have changed or not but the truth is that evangelism should never be an “option” for any church or Christian. It is a command, our mandate, and will we obey or not?

My friend Hal Seed in his pastormentor.com training gives a 90-day prayer challenge. He asked his church and challenges every person to pray, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” That is a prayer that God wants to answer. It is not a prayer to better our circumstances or make our lives easier but instead to align our priorities with His. The main priority of prayer is to be in His presence in order to change us. He wants to mold us into who His image.

Dr John David Smith in his report to our BMA churches, check out bmamissions.org if you want to watch it yourself, reminds us that we are to make disciples and to make disciple-makers. We need to reevaluate what we measure and how we see success. What would you consider success at your church 2-3 years from now? Most people’s answers would revolve around being larger and having more people. That is not wrong in and of itself but there are other Biblical metrics to be considered.

First, are you making disciples? When is the last time someone was born again because of your people sharing their faith with them? When was the last time someone was baptized at your church? How many are even attempting to share their faith? The bigger problem is if that does not even burden us, break our hearts, nor drive us to cry out to God in repentance. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and Paul said he did not cease to labor in tears for people to know Christ. We seem to have become far to comfortable with only fellowshipping with those who already know Him.

Second, what are you willing to do to reach people for Christ? Are you willing to do whatever it takes, short of sin, to build relationships with people far from God in order to share Christ with them? One pastor when asked what had been his greatest sacrifice as a pastor responded, “I think it’s clearly the discipline to treat people better than they deserve to be treated.” Is that not the essence of the gospel? Is that not the very heart of Jesus and the very definition of what true love is?

Third, are you willing to love people who are far from God until they “get it?” That is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do (check out John 13:34-35). This lifts evangelism to a whole new level. It is more than the golden rule, turning the other cheek, or blessing those who curse you. It demands that our commitment must be to love the lost even when they do not deserve it because neither do we. Who do you know that would benefit from that kind of love? Who has God placed in your life that pushes your buttons and makes your blood pressure go up?

In Dr Smith’s report he asks if we measure activity without measuring action? The difference can be between being busy and making a kingdom impact. With activity you are expending energy but there is not a clear purpose or goal in mind. The vision should be to help people find and follow Jesus. Many churches have a lot of frenetic activity going on and they are busy with church stuff but, once again, are disciples being made? We have the resources, programs, facilities, and missions statements but very few are coming to know Christ. Here are a few other metrics we should consider:

We need to measure multiplication not just addition! We know how many people we have added, and we should, but have we multiplied in the area of disciples, leaders, and more churches. We are told that 85% of all churches have plateaued or they are in decline. The 15% who are growing are experiencing this growth through transfer growth. These are people who know Jesus already but decide to attend a different church. Only 1% of the growth churches are seeing is by conversion growth. Making disciples implies you make them from scratch, just like homemade cookies.

We need to measure out-going not just in-gathering! We track who is coming and we focus most of our efforts on being attractional. Remember, addition is good and being attractional is not bad but are we tracking how many are being sent out. Not only how many disciples are we making, how many disciple-makers are we making, and how many leaders are we developing but also how many churches have we helped to start? Discipleship is pouring into others in order to equip them that we may one day release them to multiply. Our sending capacity is far more catalytic than our seating capacity!

We need to measure our functions not just our forms. Forms have to do with all the things we keep track of in church life. Form describes how we look at buildings, programs, salaries, worship styles, and programs. These things are important but they are not the most important. We have determined what is normal for our churches when we need Jesus to redefine for us what His normal is. Function describes what Jesus has called us to do, “Go and make disciples!” How are we doing at making disciples, disciple-makers, leaders, and multiplying churches?

The place to begin could be with this simple prayer challenge, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.”

The Epicenter of Kingdom Work

Epicenter

At a meeting of leaders from around the world, Bishop Francis Kamau from Kenya said this, “We are the epicenter of church planting training and multiplication.”  The discussion that followed was lively and fun as other church planting leaders playfully challenged his declaration.  One replied, “Not for long!”  Bishop Kamau then said, “You’ll never catch us!”  Everyone was laughing and enjoying the banter of visionaries who all passionately believed in what God had called them to do and where He had placed them to accomplish His mission!

Recently, while visiting Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Blanchard, OK, I was listening to the pastor, Richard Payne.  He passionately shared his vision for the ministry in a town with a population of less than 8,000.  You could tell that my good friend saw his ministry and church as the epicenter.  His passion was contagious and you could envision the preferred future for this church as he shared the vision God had given him.  It was exciting to see his focus and determination to carry out God’s plan for “His” church there in central Oklahoma.

In Practicing Greatness Reggie McNeal shares, “Then there is David.  He is serving in a community of under a thousand people in a town nobody has ever heard of.  But when you go to lunch with him and hear him recount the work of God going on there, you would think his church is the epicenter of the Christian movement.”  There it is again; “Epicenter!”  It describes those passionately serving God in their sweet spot and as they share their vision you want to go join them and be a part of it.

The word epicenter is most used for “the point, directly above the true center of disturbance, from which the shock waves of an earthquake apparently radiate.”  It has also been used to describe “a focal point, as of activity such as; ‘Manhattan’s Chinatown is the epicenter of the city’s Chinese community.”  It describes the main place where things are getting shook-up by all of the activity.  Do you see your place of service as the epicenter of kingdom work and advancement?

Here is why you should see your assignment as the epicenter of kingdom work:

  • God called you and placed you there! Where you serve is negotiable but the mission we are called to is not negotiable.  Begin to serve Him where you are because a change of scenery never guarantees a change of opportunity.  If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?  God’s call does not depend upon us having a position, a title, or on drawing a salary from a church.  Begin now, where you are!
  • There are no small places of service! Your success does not depend upon the size of your city or the size of your church.  You never know what God has in mind where He has placed you nor the impact you might have in the lives of the people you touch.  Lead people to Christ, disciple them, equip them to do greater works than you, and send them out to create another epicenter of kingdom work.
  • Your passion depends on Him not them! Moses went up on Mount Sinai and when he returned his face was radiating the glory of God.  In Acts 4:13 we read, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”  Can people tell that we have been with Jesus?
  • Your gifts match your assignment! God places us where we can live on mission that fits our giftedness.  In Practicing Greatness Reggie McNeal says this, “The truth is, God has not called you to your life mission in spite of who you are; He has placed you precisely because of who you are.”  Focus on your strengths and bring others onto the team whose strengths are your weaknesses.

The question then is what do I do if I feel trapped and in the wrong place?  Get your swag back!  My pastor, Todd West says this quite often.  “We need to get our swag back!”  What does that mean?

  • Spend time seeking the Lord! Enjoy his presence.  Desire to know Him better and more intimately.  Go on a prayer retreat to focus on Him and your relationship with Him!  Be willing to do whatever it takes to be refreshed and encouraged in the Lord!
  • Reconnect with your passion! This may require a move, but not usually.  It will require that you make some changes in your calendar and your ministry priorities.  It will also require some courageous choices.  Focus on what makes you tick and be intentional in finding your sweet spot!
  • Stop doing everything! Fight the temptation to think that you are the only one who can fix it or make it better.  Stay away from (as much as possible) those tasks that drain you and rob you of your passion.  Maybe you are robbing someone else of the joy of serving in their sweet spot.

Reggie goes on to say, “Your best shot at making your greatest contribution in the world is for you to get better at what you are already good at.”  God made you distinct and unique to fulfill His will and to accomplish His plan for your life.  The key to believing you are at the epicenter of kingdom advancement is knowing that you are the right person, at the right time, and in the right place.  God has placed you there, “For such a time as this!”