Many churches don’t know what they’re called to be, so they can’t figure out what they’re supposed to do. This fuzzy approach to church drives away good leaders and undermine the pastor’s sense of confidence. The answer isn’t bigger programing, more persistent congregational outreach or wider thrust around justice issues. These may be part of your unique solution but they won’t solve the problem. Rediscover your Soul’s connection with your Redeemer.
Somewhere in the ‘what is church supposed to look like” building process the focus shifted from being a disciple who makes disciples to being a disciple who cares for disciples. It’s an honest shift that naturally happens when we begin building educational programs, worship programing and personalized groups for men, women and children to help them grow. There’s no malice or insincerity; it’s a quiet shift from being zealous about being like Jesus to supportive activities that help people become more like Jesus. In this shift, the being part is often replaced by the doing part. Smart isn’t the same as humble.
When churches return to being in love with Jesus; being impressed with Jesus’ sacrifice; being amazed that Jesus would love a sinner like me; and being open, like Jesus was, to what the Father might want done next, we cultivate hearts that mirror Jesus being more than our traditional doing models. There’s more humility. There’s more repentance. There’s more grace. There’s more faith. There’s more love. These are all being qualities that always result in a different kind of doing. But the being drives the doing, not the other way around.
A fuzzy approach that focuses on doing unintentionally direct leaders to focus on the doing things that are easy rather than being elements that require more soul. It’s easier to keep the classes going, continue to do the breakfasts, make music look a certain way or protect this set of church habits than it is to sort out what God would have us do at this time in our journey. This approach gets fuzzy when activities are done for the sake of maintaining the organization rather than an internal compass that’s aligned with God’s true north.
Soulful leaders are yearning for substance over being busy. Their lives are often frantically busy and they yearn for people who know how to listen for the voice of God in the chaos and are willing to courageously follow. They’re wanting to do that themselves but see so few examples they resign themselves to being busy for the kingdom when they could be being in the Kingdom. When pastors replace their being with doing, they become hollow shells who put on a cloak of substance. It doesn’t happen in a moment but over time, because many pastors tend to have more shepherd/counselor than leader, they succumb to the expectations of their congregations that tend to revolve around doing rather than being. This undermines their confidence in God and God’s work in their hearts. When they mistrust God’s still small voice because of the clatter of congregational activity, you’re already in decline.
Then answer isn’t bigger events or more passionate outreach or more zealous justice initiatives. Bigger and better only means you’re getting busier. There’s a reason people who have heart attacks change their lifestyle and diet. They see their lives from a different vantage point – with a perspective of eternity. When Jesus interacted with the blind man in John 9, that man saw life differently and he knew the sight he received was a special gift. Up to this point he spent his time begging and waiting on others – it was all he could do. But when he received his sight he saw Jesus differently. He first experienced Jesus then he saw Jesus.
The answer for our local churches lies in experiencing Jesus with freshness and humility. It may be that we still do things but our motives shift and our purpose defines our activity. We don’t just feed the poor, we love them so they will sense what it’s like to be loved by the King of the the World. We don’t just stand up for injustice, we struggle tearfully alongside the wounded with grief-filled tears because people are made in the God’s image and have a living breathing soul. We don’t just do church, we help exhausted strugglers remember that “In all their affliction He [God] was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old (Isaiah 63:9).”
When being defines our doing; out doing makes a deeper impact in the souls of men. They’re searching for authenticity and substance. While they appreciate the gifts, when they find the Giver and personally experience the overflowing abundance of grace, love, mercy and acceptance, they will fall in love with Jesus and become impressed with Jesus’ ability to satisfy their soul.
Blessing on your journey,