Churches everywhere are working to maintain relevance in this post-Christian nation, scrambling to survive.
Church attendance in many places is steadily declining as people go outside the church walls for spiritual fulfillment or people have just stopped caring about church altogether.
Let me ask you, is there anything for this generation to declare?
If it’s the work of man it might be worth talking about, but the works of God are what’s worth declaring.
Man alone cannot fix what’s wrong. It’s as if we are holding up our hand to God saying, “I know. It’s all messed up. Just wait God, I’ll fix it” and then we go and make it worse.
Imagine that the church in America is a derailed train. Instead of allowing the big machinery to take care of the problem people are getting in the wreckage. Pushing and trying to lift the train back up on the tracks and others are trapped or getting hurt in the process. It just doesn’t work.
The work of God, in many cases, has become the effort of man.
How do we know?
The Bible gives us a great example in the life of Saul. The people of Israel wanted a king so God gave them a king. Saul was anointed and appointed by God but in the end the kingdom was taken away.
Because he believed that his way was better than God’s. It wasn’t obvious rebellion, it was subtle, and he used the people he was leading as the excuse for his disobedience.
There are four things in [[1 Samuel 15]] that reveal what it looks like when the work of God becomes the effort of man.
1. Obedience is reasoned away or compromised. [See 1 Samuel 15:9-10]
We see something in the Word, and we know we need to adjust. But in today’s culture isn’t that a little too extreme? We don’t want to rock the boat too much because a slow trickle is better than seeing a bunch of people abandon ship at the same time. It’s too hard or too uncomfortable and we are too scared.
Whatever the excuse, disobedience is never worth it.
2. There are initiatives for growth without the heart change to make them last. [See 1 Samuel 15:30]
I’ve seen it and you’ve probably seen it too. Programs, building projects, campaigns trying to reach out and stimulate growth. People are excited for a while thinking, “this is it!” but then the excitement wanes.
Deep down we know what’s really needed is for us, all of us, pastors and congregants alike, to spend time on our faces and in the Word, asking God what HE wants.
3. Ungodly behavior is justified with the guise of preserving the work God is doing. [See 1 Samuel 15:21]
Let’s face it. Ministry is hard and sometimes people are butts. It might seem like a viable solution to lash out in anger and make threats to get someone in line. Or maybe just let them do whatever they want as long as “ministry” is getting done. Don’t forget you can always just disown them and pretend they don’t exist. Fudging the finances, fudging the truth, just smoothing it over so people don’t ask too many questions.
God can’t bless that.
4. The blame for regression is placed on the lack of resources and/or the incompetence of others. [See 1 Samuel 15:15]
“I wish we could do this or that. I would really like to. But the people… But the finances…”
Everything but our unbelief or disobedience becomes the problem. Maybe growth has stalled out or everything has been on a steady decline for a while, but it couldn’t be because we stopped seeking God and started trying to do it on our own…could it?
If every setback is being blamed on outside circumstances, then recovery will never be achieved. The problem isn’t on the outside. It’s inside of us, in our tendency for self-preservation.
One of the hardest things we have to do in ministry is consistently relinquish the control back to God. In our humanness we will try to make it work, box it in.
So how do we keep a move of God from becoming an effort of man?
Today, our mission is clear:
When we try to fulfill the Great Commission using only methods we understand or are comfortable with (because it’s what we’ve always done or how we’ve always done it) it will become harder to trust God and relinquish control. Ultimately, one of two things will happen: The work will become so convoluted that it will be rendered ineffective or it will become so stifled it will become irrelevant.
A heritage of faith is maintained by faith and faith is never comfortable to the flesh. [Tweet this]
Faith will move us outside of our comfort zone.
It will not look like people pleasing. It will look just the opposite. It will draw some and repel others. [Tweet this]
It will look like radical, unashamed obedience - obedience that requires consistent re-evaluation and humility. It is not for the faint of heart.
Know this; God cannot be managed. If it is His work He will maintain it.
It is only up to us to hold on loosely, allowing His Word to be our guide. It was never ours to begin with. But we can be certain that when God invites us to be a part of what He is doing it is sure to be a great adventure.
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