The church I belong to is going through a
difficult trying time. Thankfully, there are so many people devoted to the church that truly believe in what it stands for and believe God has a wonderful plan for its future.
Too often we judge ourselves based on other people’s success. We compare our businesses, our families, our everyday lives based on what others are doing. And the same is true with our churches. It’s so easy to look at other churches’ memberships and annual reports and become dissatisfied. We want what they have. Maybe we don’t want their pastor or their praise band. But we want their following.. their passion.. their drive. But we need to remember. We’re all different. Each church has a different vision so it’s literally unfair for us to compare them. We, as the church, need to remember that we can only measure our success against our own goals and aspirations.
Pastor Craig Groeschel once said this.. “I want you to always choose kingdom influence over worldly success.” God doesn’t care so much as to whether you are reaching millions or only five. It’s about the relationships and the impact you are making on their lives.
Last night at our Staff Parrish Relations Committee meeting, we discussed whether our church was a church that aims to go wide or deep. (Cue in the popular kid-friendly song, “Deep and Wide”) Are we a church that aims to continually grow membership to serve more and more people? Or are we a church that focuses on the current members and strengthening their relationships with God? We couldn’t really come to a concrete conclusion. We wanted to be both. But in choosing to do both, are we choosing to be mediocre? Some say yes. Some say you need to have a clear vision on this aspect in order to grow. And to be honest, I just don’t know.
But.. in all of that confusion.. I do know one thing. God has an extraordinary plan for our church. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that God has a beautiful purpose for New Life UMC. He never said that ‘building’ a church would be easy. We’re in uncertain times, but I believe that there is something bright in our church’s future. The evangelist, Clinton King once said “God’s only going to use you more.” I love that phrase. Our best days.. as a church and as Christians.. are not behind us. God is not done with my church.. or your church. He is not done with you or me. He has greater things in store. He has a plan for us and is definitely going to use us more. We’ve got what it takes. With the faith of God behind us and in our hearts, we can and will do great things for His Kingdom. When we want what God wants for the same reasons that God wants.. we will be unstoppable (paraphrased via Pastor Steven Furtick).
As our church focuses to follow God’s plan and make the necessary changes in order to pursue our vision, we need to engage in a whole boatload of prayer. Without continuous communication with God, we will lose sight of what His plans are for us. When we stop relying and trusting His plan, we start following our own plan. So, engage with the Father.. don’t demand that things be fixed and that they be fixed on our own timelines, but rather ask God to give you the eyes to see His vision, the ears to follow His calling and the willingness to step out in faith.
With the church and with life, we too often want the quick fix. We want to scoot on by the storms of life instead of taking the time to recognize the opportunities to learn and to strengthen our faith. To me, it seems that the most difficult of times are when God uses us to grow and to become a better church, wife, husband, daughter, son, friend, etc. God uses those times to teach us and to bring us out stronger than ever before.
Are you going through a storm in your life? Are you deep in a valley? Instead of wanting to fast forward through those trying times, sit back and let God work in your life. Let Him teach you and help you grow. The storms and valleys are certainly not easy or fun… but if you stick out.. God will show you the beauty of the sunset and the mountaintops.