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Are You Winning?

Every church needs to ask themselves if they are winning or not. And, are you winning at what God defines as a win? Your church needs to allow God’s playbook, His word, to define what a win and success looks like. All too often our metrics are size (attendance), buildings (seating capacity), or killer programs (pet projects). None of the things mentioned are in and of themselves bad, but they can distract us. Churches can do a lot of good things but the main thing and the best thing is to “Go and make disciples.”

A winning team is described in Ephesians 4:16, “From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” As individuals grow and serve the Lord then the entire church body is edified and lives on mission for Christ. Winning can be defined as developing mature disciples. III John verse 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Winning is helping people to find and follow Jesus.

My dad was military and following the seventh grade we moved to Florida where he was stationed at Eglin Air Force base. That August I tried out for the football team. I had never played organized football before but I showed up with my brother’s steel tipped cleats. They were too big so I stuffed socks into the toes and laced them up. I found out they were illegal and you couldn’t wear them anymore. The drills were hard but especially hard for someone who didn’t have a clue of what was going on. The coach then informed us that on Friday final cuts would be made.

We all huddled around the coach’s door where he posted the names of those who had made the team and mine was not there. After the season was over I saw the head coach in the school hallway and he informed me that he had thought I was already a ninth grader and if he had known I was actually a year younger I would have made the team. He said, “I think you could have helped us win some games!” Church, it is a huge mistake to think someone is older and more mature than they really are! That is why in Ephesians 4 he says, “Then we will no longer be little children.”

In Church is a Team Sport, Jim Putman uses the analogy of a football team to describe how we should function. The team is the church. The opponent is, of course, the devil. The playing field is the earth right where you live and right where you are. The team players are followers of Jesus and you need to determine if you are in the stands, on the sidelines, or on the playing field. The coaches are the leaders and we must realize that one coach cannot see the whole picture by himself. The strength of the team is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The playbook is the Bible and we must be very careful not to create our own plays or our own definition of winning. Some teams are more concerned about the condition of the stadium, the uniforms, the halftime show, or their own personal image and statistics. Discipleship is not an easy path but greatness never has been easy. Winning is not about finding something that has never been done before but instead getting back to the basics of the playbook, God’s word. Winning is doing whatever it takes to develop fully devoted followers of Christ.

First, the winning process of discipleship has a starting point – evangelism. Winning is seeing people saved, redeemed, and born-again. The church is here to live on Jesus’ mission to seek and to save that which is lost. Yet, we are told that 50% of all evangelical churches will not see one soul saved in a calendar year.

Many of the teenagers who were raised in church and a Christian home will leave the faith between the ages of 18 and 24. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and Mormonism is the fastest growing one in the United States. When was the last time you personally shared the gospel with someone? Winning is evangelizing the lost. How is your church doing?

Second, the winning process of discipleship must continue with edification. Edifying the believer wherever they are in the process of being an infant, a child, a young adult, or a fully mature reproducing parent. The best way to help our kids is by doing something with the immature adults. The thing children need to see the most is someone who is on fire for Jesus and is passionate about following Him. They need to see someone who will not be distracted or easily deterred by the attacks of the enemy and remain faithful.

Third, the winning process of discipleship has a releasing point. In discipleship the evangelized are edified and then the edified evangelize. We are not edified, trained, and equipped to be complacent, comfortable, and self-satisfied. There are three groups that aid in this discipleship process and all of them have responsibilities. The first is God and He always does His job. The second is the local church, which should create an environment where you can grow and mature in Christ. The third is the individual disciple, which must take personal responsibility for his or her own personal growth.

Are you winning? Far too many churches are producing disciples who are not growing or maturing, unwilling to speak the truth in love, and are unable to stand against the winds and waves of the world. Winning is allowing God’s word to be our playbook to define what true discipleship and winning looks like!

Is what you are living for, worth Christ dying for?

Dying to Succeed

Success

There are those who will do anything to get to the top.  They are dying to succeed and are killing themselves because of the stress and workaholic lifestyle.   These individuals are climbing the organizational ladder and will step on or over anyone who gets in their way.  Phrases such as “it’s a dog eat dog world out there,” “survival of the fittest,” and “lead, follow, or get out of the way” are often used.  Many see success as a title or position of power but it is interesting that when Jesus was on earth He had no title or position but He had ALL authority.  

#1.  Are you are driven by survival and motivated to just “get by?”   When you accept the status quo you just want to get along. 

#2.  Are you driven to succeed and motivated to “get ahead?”  This can be dangerous if you so driven you are willing to do almost anything to get ahead of others.

#3.  Are you driven by significance and they would like to “get affirmation?”  You desire to make a difference but you may be seeking others applause a little too much..

Ralph Waldo Emerson said this, “I fear the popular notion of success stands in direct opposition in all points to the real and wholesome success. One adores public opinion, the other, private opinion; one, fame, the other, desert; one, feats, the other, humility; one, lucre, the other, love; one, monopoly, and the other, hospitality of mind.”  The definition of success is subjective.  You must decide what success looks like.  How you define success will determine how you treat other people and how you carry out the responsibilities you have.

Success is not just surviving, accepting the status quo, or only doing what is safe.  Some define success as doing what is least dangerous for themselves, their families, and their churches.  They have accepted success to be about self-preservation.  Success, scripturally, can only be achieved when we value living radically and dangerously rather than safely and comfortably.  Success is not just giving our time, talents, and treasures but giving our lives for the sake of the kingdom.  Jesus said this, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”

Success to God is the opposite of worldly success.  The humble are exalted, and the exalted are humbled.  The weak are strong, and the strong are weak.  The rich are actually poor, and the poor are actually rich.  The wise are foolish, and the foolish are wise.  Death comes from life, and holding on to life brings death.  Neal Cole says it this way, “From our worldly perspective, the kingdom of God is backwards.  It is upside down.  In a sense, everything you think you know is right is wrong, and everything you think is wrong is right.”

For example, have we convinced ourselves that anything considered unsafe is outside of the will of God and foolish?  Jesus never talked about a safe way of following Him.  He did, however, tell us to watch out for wolves, let the dead bury their dead, die to self, and if we loved anyone more than Him we were not worthy of Him.  Matthew 10:39 says it well, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  We are to die to self because it is the only way we can live for Jesus.  We must die to succeed!

Self-preservation is not “success” because it actively chooses a cheap substitute to the life of faith God has intended for us.  It is a “churchianity” that is carried out by men, for men, in the name of God.  When we choose to preserve our lives by playing it safe we are actually choosing death but when we choose death we are actually choosing life.  Death is absolutely essential if we want to be a “successful” disciple of Jesus Christ.  We are unworthy of Jesus when we are unwilling to die to self.  To succeed you must die!

Success can only occur when we choose to live for Jesus and not ourselves.  There is no disciple without a death.  Once again allow me to quote Neal Cole, “I have come to believe that the health of any organization can be evaluated in direct proportion to its willingness to die.  The more vested they are in self-preservation, the less health they will have.  The more willing to die so the kingdom can flourish, the healthier the organization is.”  When we decide to die that is what actually brings life to our personal walk with Christ and to our churches! 

Bob Logan says that his father defined success as, “finding the will of God and doing it!”