Summer can bring some great opportunities for families, but it can also lead to lots of frustration. Plus, it goes by so fast that I am afraid to blink. I have not enjoyed feeling like we did not get the most out of a summer. So, my wife and I decided to implement a couple of habits/rules in our house (unique from our school year routines). Our goal was to establish some routines that would promote calmness, creativity and spiritual growth.
One of the reasons this is such a crushing experience for many is because they assume that their alternatives are affirmation or alienation. I either give up my relationship with my child or I give up the Bible. The gospel never suggests this set of alternatives, and in fact demonstrates just the opposite. Every child, whether gay or straight, is oriented toward sin, and so are you. If your child or grandchild says he or she is gay, you shouldn’t act shocked, as though you are surprised your child might be tempted toward sin, or that you find your own sinful inclinations somehow less deserving of God’s judgment.
But if you’re so busy that you don’t have time to focus on discipleship, development and knowing the team then you run the risk of not only building a toxic culture on your church staff team but missing the real work God has called you to. At the end of the day the church is not a business, it’s the body of Christ.
I remember when I was in my 20’s looking for a new church job after seminary and one of my professors told me, “Find a church that you would attend if you didn’t get paid to be there.” Let me ask it another way for pastors, “Would you attend your church if you didn’t get paid to be there?”
The answer for many pastors is a resounding, “No.”
You cannot fix anything at your church, you can’t make lasting change until it is clear you want to be there.
Here’s why it matters:
You aren’t bought in. If you don’t want to be there, you aren’t bought in. You may tell me you were called there or at least take a paycheck from that church, but you aren’t bought in. You will take the next higher paying job as soon as it comes along. As soon as life with the elders or staff member gets difficult, you will update the resume. If you are not bought in, the first sign of a difficult season will send you packing. I know a guy who simply quits his job whenever it gets hard or he doesn’t like someone he works with. Pastors can be the same. This environment creates little buy in from your church and team.
Others know you aren’t bought in. Your church and your leaders know you aren’t bought in. It is obvious. You have no vision, no excitement for the future, you don’t invite anyone to church, you don’t talk about any conversations you have with non-Christians. You are simply showing up and people know it. Pastors think they hide it but your church is as perceptive as kids are with their parents, they don’t miss anything when they are looking. When it comes to vision and excitement, your church is looking to see what you have.
Without being bought in, you will change the wrong things. If you aren’t bought in and aren’t excited, if you don’t want to be there, you will have no vision. When this happens, you will change what you just learned at a conference. You will come back and start a drama team, start using candles, do dialogue in preaching, have more songs or less songs, preach expository sermons or topical ones depending on what the latest trendy pastors said he is doing. This creates a roller coaster ride for your church. They don’t know what the win is and they get nervous when you go to a conference because of what will change afterwards.
I would say, if you wouldn’t attend the church you work at, find a new church to attend. Notice I didn’t say work at. Be bought in somewhere before working there. This is why, when someone emails Revolution about a job, we tell them to move to Tucson, start attending Revolution and we’ll see what happens. We want people who are bought into our vision and excited about where we are going, not people who want a paycheck.
As I’ve been preaching through the gospel of John at Revolution Church this year, I am blown away by the conversations Jesus has with people. There is a difference in the way Jesus talked to them, his expectations for people outside of Christianity compared with today.
It always strikes me as interesting when Christians talk about the culture, politics, current issues and are surprised when people who don’t follow Jesus act like they don’t follow Jesus.
Why are we surprised?
If Christians believe that the gospel changes us (which we do), then we should expect someone who has been changed by that truth to live and act a certain way. The New Testament writers did. That’s what all the NT letters are about, how to live and act as the body of Christ. Paul did it one way in 1 Corinthians, a different way in Philippians and James and Peter added their own takes to it.
Here are a couple ideas on how to interact with this culture in light of this:
If you are a follower of Jesus, live like it. One of the best ways to move the gospel forward is to live like the gospel has changed you. Too many people who attend church every week do not live, think, feel any different from those who claim to not follow Jesus. As I said this past week in a sermon, a follower of Jesus should be obvious because they will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22 – 23).
Give space for those exploring Jesus to explore. Your church, community group, missional community should be a place where those who don’t know Jesus feel comfortable asking questions and exploring Jesus. You should be the kind of person those who don’t know Jesus feel comfortable being around. Too many Christians don’t know how to be friends with people who don’t know Jesus, let alone share their faith with them. Be a good friend. Be someone who can be counted on, trusted, respected. This goes a long way in sharing the gospel.
Have a community/life that is attractive to those who don’t know Jesus. Same thing as above. If you are a pastor, how many people who don’t know Jesus do you see coming through your doors each week? How many people are getting baptized? Following Jesus? If the answer is low, you do not have an attractive community for the gospel.
Lovingly confront sin. If you are around humans, you will need to learn how to lovingly confront sin, the NT calls us to this. Over and over, community is to pull people aside and confront the sin in their lives with the truth of the gospel. Christians are good at shouting about the truth, but terrible at doing this in a loving way. Don’t be passive aggressive. Remember how broken you are when confronting someone. And confront someone the way you would want to be confronted.
Lovingly confront Christians who are unloving to those who don’t know Jesus. When you hear Christians point their fingers, turn their noses up, or expect not yet Christians in your church to act like Christians, lovingly confront them. Tell them how great it is that someone felt comfortable to put their cigarette out in the parking lot, at least they are there. Roll the red carpet out for not yet Christians by teaching Christians to love.