Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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If More People Show Up, It Must Be Good

There are so many people that won't step foot in a church.  This fact doesn't negate the fact that they need Jesus in their lives  We have reached a point where the lost don't want to be found.

This has lead many people to re-think what church can look like.  This has resulted in a lot of different ministries popping up that are designed to appeal to those people that are not interested in a traditional church.  There are some organizations that are simple variants on the traditional church, while there are other that have completely broken the mold.

These efforts have met with various levels of success.  Some have been incredibly popular, with large numbers of people flocking into the program, but this may not be successful.  There are some organizations that are sharing the Bible with people, but they may or may not be successful.  Some organizations are helping the poor and disadvantaged, but that doesn't mean that they are a success.  There are organizations with huge budgets, large staffs and lots of buildings, but they may not be a success.

So what does it take to have a successful ministry?  It is the same this that is required to have a successful personal relationship to the Lord:

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?'  Then I will announce to them, 'I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!' (Matthew 7:21-23)

The individuals that Jesus describes here seem to have an active ministry life, but yet they were missing one important element.  They were failing to do “the will of My father in heaven”.  Every day, even every hour, we have the choice to do our will or His will, which option we choose can have eternal consequences, no matter how much religion we white-wash our lives with.

While kindness, generosity, compassion, hospitality and the willingness to share the reason for our hope, do not have a season and should be ongoing, we should be sure that those ministries we throw our lives into are those that God has chosen for us.

Just doing ministry activities does not make it pleasing to God, instead, whatever we do must be done in obedience and submission to His will.  Any given ministry may or may not be pleasing to God and fruitful for His kingdom, depending on whose idea it is.

For example, examine this incident when a man did what he thought would be good and pleasing to God while the ark was being moved for King David, but the action was Uzzah's idea, not God's.  

When they came to Chidon's threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to hold the ark, because the oxen had stumbled.  Then the Lord's anger burned against Uzzah, and He struck him dead because he had reached out to the ark.  So he died there in the presence of God. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)

This poor guy sought to do what was pleasing to God, by trying to stabilize the ark when it appeared that it might fall.  He was doing what seem to him as reasonable, but it wasn't what God wanted.

There are many things that are done in God's name that are not God's plan.  Some of the actions appear, from a human standpoint, to be successful.  However, if God isn't pleased by the action, then what is the point?

Some of the problem is that we don't necessarily see the goals and signs of success the same way that God does.  We tend to think that if the number of people is increasing or the amount of money is on the rise, then we are successful.  Yet God sees a much bigger picture than we do.  He may know that an action we regard as small and insignificant may reap bigger benefits for His kingdom, as compared to some “big” action.  A person's greatest kingdom impact may be an action that has no budget, no visibility and only involves a couple of people.

In spite of this, we tend to chase after “the next big thing”, more money, more pride, more people, more buildings; all those same things the world chases after.

So, let's say it is our idea to start a ministry, for example a Bible study, a church, to preach on the street-corner or a Christian support group.  While these things are not in themselves bad, they may came be a source of inappropriate pride (“look at what I did”).  In addition, if we have all our energy focused in a non-God-ordained direction, then how available are we when God does call us to action?

These ministries that God isn't in, that are operating under our power, how likely are they to be a success?  How likely are they to be a success for the kingdom?  Certainly, if we decide to hand out $20 bills with scripture written on them, then that will surely be a very popular ministry, but will it be successful for the kingdom or pleasing to God?  Remember, even Jesus said about Himself, “The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does these things in the same way” (John 5:19).  If Jesus knew He couldn't do anything without the Father, who are we to think we can do anything on our own?

However, when we pursue an endeavor that God has ordained for us to do, then we are guaranteed success.  Consider the story of Ananias from the book of Acts.  He was told by the Lord to go to a certain house and heal the blindness of a specific person.  We don't know if Ananias had ever healed even a pimple before, but we know that when God said go and do it, that his healing would be a success.  Not only were his prayers of healing successful, but this was also a pivotal moment for God's kingdom.

It is important to remember that when I claim that when we do something ordained by God we are guaranteed success, that this success is based on God's criteria, not ours.  God sees a much bigger picture than we do.  Our efforts may be just plant a seed.  In God's view this is a success, even if the harvest is still years away and we might not even be there at the time.  We don't have a clue what part we are playing in God's plan, because we can't comprehend His plan.

I think of a time when I made a small act of obedience, I certainly didn't see it as anything of significance.  God wanted me to do it, this little thing that I really didn't understand.  I even remember thinking that this didn't make any sense and I was tempted to go off and do something else instead.  Yet, in simple obedience and blind faith, I went.  When I arrived at my destination, the man I went to see burst into tears and grabbed me around the neck in a huge hug of gratitude.

Even to this day, I'm not sure what happened that particular evening.  What I do know is that it was all a result of God's plan.  Although I didn't understand, God was able to use me because I was listening, available and willing.

God wants servants.  He wants men and women that can function as an extension of His hands and mouth to help fulfill His perfect plans.  

In my experience, God calling on us to take action isn't an every day thing.  Consequently, this involves a lot of waiting and listening.  This can be extremely challenging, because we don't wait well.  Yet the only way that we can be a faithful servant, is if we remain ready to serve, waiting for the Master to give us instructions.

Sidenote: Don't let anybody make you feel guilty if you are waiting on the Lord and not “actively” involved in any ministry.  Most healthy Christian lives do include periods of active waiting on the Lord.

God has given us a mind, with that mind we can think of ways to “love one another” and to “go into all the world” and that is well and good (as long as our motive is truly to bring glory to God).  Yet, we need to remember that our very best efforts don't hold a candle to what God can do with us.  If we want to be that “good and faithful servant', we must avoid being so involved in our own thing that we miss out on what incredible things God wants to do through us.

Just imagine if, after he left Egypt, if Moses had started into a huge temple building project.  So he starts living, breathing and eating this project for God.  Then if God had tried to call him, Moses would have been too busy and too preoccupied to hear and obey God's call to go set God's people free.  This might have totally re-written the history of God's people.

God certainly can bust through a mis-directed “ministry”.  Saul of Tarsus was sure that he was being faithful when he was jailing and killing the Jesus-followers.  God had to strike him blind in a huge blast that knocked everybody to the ground, then speak audibly to him to get his attention.  However, more often, it seems, when God calls a person and they don't answer, that the person just misses out.

How many times have you missed out on being a blessing with a fruitful opportunity to serve God?  How many time might you have seen miraculous outcomes from a mission God sent you on?  How many times might God's kingdom have been furthered, lives really changed, a real difference made if you had been waiting, listening and available?  Is there really anything more important than being there to serve God when he calls?

When you look at the heroes of the Bible you don't see people that used their superior intellect to figure out a way to assist God, then dedicated their life to that.  Instead, you see people  that knew they didn't have much to offer, but surrendered their little to God's will when He called.  The world already presents us with tons of distractions and counter-incentives to listening to and following the Lord, we can't let our own ideas of how to serve the Lord get in the way of really serving the Lord.

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