This is the time of the year when many churches are asked to their annual reports together.
The governing districts want to determine whether a local Body of Christ has been successful or not.
Since the day I first entered full-time ministry, in 1982, I have always bristled at how most Christian organizations rate accomplishments. Much of the data gathered deals with numbers and attendance, and how many people sat in the seats under the roof of a facility. A rocket scientist isn't needed to observe that the God of the Bible might measure the amount of faithfulness, godliness, holiness and righteousness using tools other than just showing up.
Last year was the wildest year I have ever survived as a pastor. Suddenly, the buildings were closed. The church of Jesus, though, is not a compilation of bricks and sticks, but a family of blood pumping heartbeats set on serving Jesus. The doors of the auditorium might be locked, but there is no weapon made by man that can imprison the Gospel. How do you add that up on paper?
Maybe, God was shaking us all up, so that we stop looking at statistics and start championing the stories Jesus' followers can share.
This past year, I preached many to a physically empty room on many weekends, but the internet told a different story.
More crowds were tuning in from places that the message would have never arrived at without the world-wide web. I lit a candle before every service, as a reminder that the most important one, the Holy Spirit, was still in our midst, providing the power to accomplish what could never happen in the natural.
New relationships were formed. Deeper connections began. Significant conversations were spoken, lives were being transformed, and the only way that will translate to a banner year for God's kingdom is if we are willing to stop prioritizing the numbers and begin cherishing the privilege of meeting needs.
Mother Theresa once said, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” I have forever quoted that mantra to my children from the time they could understand “obedience is the key to Christianity.”
God is not looking for me to wow Him with my latest ingenuity. He is longing for me to just say, “Here I am, Lord, use me.” If I wanted to just create a crowd, I could resort to the tricks and gimmicks of the world system, but the Lord is calling us to become Disciples, willing to die to our flesh so we become alive to His fruit.
To summarize 2020's harvest, we are going to need a new document, for which I am grateful. It is time to talk about the acts of Jesus' church, and not just be satisfied to know that there were spectators in the audience.
As Christians, one of our most difficult challenges is to keep pressing on when it looks like we are making no headway, but God is not expecting us to pull off what only He can execute by His mighty presence.
I am teaching a Bible study about the Book of Ezekiel every Tuesday, in person, at the Lighthouse Church, or online. My point, though, is that Ezekiel trained to be a priest for God, who changed Ezekiel’s vocation so he could become a prophet. Ezekiel didn’t argue with God and lay claims to his original training. He adjusted the load on the road and shifted his focus.
God also made it clear to Ezekiel that there would not be many converts in this ministry. God said that the majority of his onlookers would enjoy his delivery without any intention of doing what the Lord is calling them to do. If that doesn’t sound familiar to our culture, what does?
It’s not the size of our buildings, budgets, bands, Bibles, buffets, or bells and whistles that opens the heavens. It is
the simplicity of our willingness to seek Jesus through the pandemics, political craziness, and positives and negatives of our unpredictable circumstances that will keep us connected to God's promises.
Moses couldn’t convince the pharaoh, but God said speak anyway. The crowds stoned Steven, and he kept pointing to the truth. Paul died in prison, but his legacy continues through the New Testament's letters. When are we going to stop looking for the applause of men when all we need is, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from God?
I shared with our Lighthouse Church staff that our goal is not to try to get the church back to what it was pre-Covid. Our mission has never changed. It is to show others Jesus.
We can do it with our masks on or off, online or in person, or with words or behavior. Nobody can stop God’s people from praying, preaching, and proclaiming His love. This may not translate to a neat and pretty annual report, but will make a dent into eternity.
Go where God sends you, and obey what He shares with you. Live the life God enables for you, and carry the torch of the truth that will set people free forever.
Shine the light that Jesus ignited the day He entered your heart, and what can’t be written on paper will translate by the faith of the people.
Faith is believing that God exists, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him. Make sure you never settle for trinkets that rust when God is calling us to treasure what lasts. Our obedience to God may not always produce what this earth deems as fortune, but when we turn our eyes to Jesus and look intent upon His wonderful face, earth's possessions will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
What is my approach to 2021? It is more than doing the next best thing. It is about being in tune with God’s thing. No “thing” is as important as God’s, and let us be diligent in pursuing that kind of excellence.
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.