A few seemingly random things collided inside my head the other day, and I was reminded of something very important regarding this Kingdom work that we have been called to, created for and commissioned to. Here, in no particular order, are the things that were rolling around in my head. I will attempt to put them together in a helpful manner.
Random Thing #1
I recently took part in an online discipleship learning opportunity with our FMUSA friends. A good deal of the reading for the course and the reflection questions focused around the idea that we are all unique individuals. Meaning we all learn differently and connect with God best through different “pathways.” This means that a single ten week program created for a wide audience may not be the best way to help all people connect deeply with God and become more like Him – even if it has a really good video starring a really big name preacher.
Random Thing #2
A friend who seems to read most of the stuff I write and then sends gentle “corrective” notes to me, got in touch with me the other day. They suggested that healthy church stuff is fine (I may be paraphrasing a bit there – forgive me friend), but our primary focus must always be helping folks who do not have a meaningful relationship with their Heavenly Father discover a real God who loves them and longs to be a very real part of their very real lives. Call it evangelism, saving the lost, whatever you want. We can’t ever forget that this is very much part of Jesus “Go” job description for His followers which means that if all the cool stuff we do as a church just keeps us busy and doesn’t help us make disciples then we may be wasting everyone’s time as the Church.
Random Thing #3
I have watched leaders in churches make all kinds of plans as they step into the call to take responsibility for their communities. Some of those plans have worked, but some have not. And some have not in very big and painful ways. Nobody showed. Time and money were lost. The Gospel was not shared. As I listened to both sets of stories I noticed a trend (this is anecdotal by the way – I don’t have hard evidence). Often the stuff that “didn’t work” failed to take into account the community that it was designed to reach. Here is what I mean: leaders who may or may not live in the community sat around and tried to decide what the community needed or would like without ever actually talking to folks from the community. They seemed like good ideas, but they may not have been the right ideas for that particular community.
Random Things Collide
So here is where all these random things landed in my head. Programs and events and curriculum all have their place. All can be useful, but they aren’t everything. When we try and disciple someone in order to help them become more like Jesus, or we try and plan something that will help us take responsibility for our community, we can’t ever forget that there are unique creations of God on the other end of our programs and plans, and we have to treat them as such. Not as targets or consumers for our ideas, plans, and lessons.
We have to ask good questions and listen attentively to get to know the people and communities we are trying to serve. To do less than this is to fall short of what God has called us to. Our best thinking is no match for meeting actual needs. Our favorite study guide pales in comparison to things that help people move closer to God, and we can’t ever forget that moving people closer to God is the point because it’s what we have been asked to do. So let’s make sure we are doing it in ways that actually serve the people we are trying to serve. A good reminder for all of us.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada