Points to Ponder: Are Churches Fanatical Enough?
Points to Ponder
Are Churches Fanatical Enough?
Our church being only about four years old and I being its first pastor, we have been focusing together on understanding God's vision for us. The Board of Elders and I have been studying together Habits of Highly Effective Churches by George Barna.
What does it means to be "highly effective"? Barna says this:
"...a ministry (is) being effective when lives are transformed such that people are constantly enabled to become more Christ-like. Effective ministries foster significant and continual changes in how people live." (p. 15)
"Highly effective churches have a transforming impact on people's lives because they have developed habits that facilitate specified ministry outcomes - outcomes that are consistent with scripture and that emphasize life transformation." (p. 19)
In Barna's study of this minority of churches that fit the description "highly effective", there is a principle that grabbed our attention. Barna found that most of the highly effective churches are borderline "fanatical" in their promotion of the scriptural concept, "we reap what we sow." We surmised that the author was not saying by this, "You get what you deserve." Since he's focusing on the effective churches, we concluded that the principle is: You get what you expect - and you invest much into that from which you expect much. It reminds me of the pioneer missionary William Carey who said that we should attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.
So if you don't sow a lot of seed, you can't expect a whole lot of harvest. We can apply that to our walk with the Lord. The "seeds" you invest, or sow, are the time, talents, and treasures (resources), which you have.
First, how do you invest your time? The concept of "quality time" that's been tossed around in recent years is an excuse for devoting minimal time to something. What's worth our time gets our time. The question is are we assigning worth to certain things, which are actually stealing time from the truly important areas of life? Parents, take note.
Secondly, are your talents spent on you or invested in something bigger? The talents and gifts, which God has given us, fade with disuse or misuse. All of us are naturally gifted to do at least one thing, but usually several things. Are we employing those gifts for God's glory?
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (Colossians 3:23-24)
And when it comes to your church, are people who need to know God finding Him there? Among the believers in your church, is there observable spiritual growth? If not, why not? Most importantly of all, what are you doing to make a difference in what you've observed? Are you sowing your time and talents into a ministry that touches souls?
Certainly your church or one of its ministries could benefit from your talents; but God can use you at your work, in your home, and at community functions. We just have to be careful that we're not just busy doing stuff because we can do it. Ask yourself: is there eternal value to this thing; could there be if I focused myself better? Or, is it time to "sow" the seed of my talent in a field that will better yield for the Lord?
Finally, there is the matter of treasure. Barna's research discovered that "less than five per cent of the church-going population tithes these days" (p. 149). It is an interesting thing to consider that if we add up the amount of money we give in tips when dining in a restaurant (a gratuity - a symbol of "gratitude"), the one who carried our dinner plate to the table is substantially "thanked" more than the One who has carried our lives, provided the food, and created our souls.
The reap what you sow principle makes us think about how serious we are about sowing. How focused are we on the harvest - do we expect it?
Some of us would love to build a building or improve an older one to provide better facilities for ministry. But is the building the harvest? Do we care more about the carpet than the kids playing on it? Do we dwell on the condition of the garden outside the church more than the condition of the souls who live around it? Does a farmer sow and work his field so he can own a better tractor? Are we expecting the right things from ourselves and our churches? The time, talent, and treasure we sow into it answers the question.
"Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'" (Matthew 9:37-38).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. HilltopChristianFellowship.com.