Well, we’ve finally come to the last of our big five questions–and it’s a life-changing one–How will we teach people to pursue God?
If you’re just joining us, we’ve been walking through the five questions every local church needs to be asking to bring new energy and life to their congregation. Before we jump into this critical final question, let’s quickly glance back at where we’ve been.
Our first question—How do we engage new people?—helped us see the critical need to develop specific strategic steps for connecting with people throughout our community. There simply can be no new day at your church without some new life!
Our second question occupied us for several blogs—How will we treat them when they walk through our doors? As we said, it would be tragic to work hard to connect with someone only to drop the ball when they visited our church. Effective hospitality and assimilation strategies are some of the most critical elements of a church health plan.
Next, we tackled–How will we teach them how to follow Jesus? Here, we looked at both the content and the settings where discipleship teaching is delivered. You must have a plan for people to engage, and then, of course, you’ll need to encourage them to engage that plan.
Our fourth question asked, How will we help them find a place to serve? Here, we worked our way through helping people find their gifts and find a place to use them, how we will go about training them and providing the evaluation that can help people find real success and satisfaction in their ministry efforts. And, we made a final stop considering what it’s like to be on the team–a discussion that focused on how we are investing in them and their ministry experience.
Now, we come to this final question, and some could argue that it ought to be the first question. I understand that thinking, but I also know that it’s typically the people who’ve been with us for awhile that are at the greatest risk of stalling in their spiritual growth. Studies have shown that in one’s first few years as a Christian, the ministries provided by the local church can be quite effective in helping people grow in their faith. It’s the not-so-newbies that soon slow in their growth if they don’t develop a personal and regular relational pursuit with God.
So, the first issue we must consider is how we can help people develop life habits that put them in the place to encounter God. Here, we could make a list of spiritual disciplines–those great calisthenics of faith. We could design Bible study patterns, prayer maps, and fasting regimens that folks might incorporate into their daily schedules–and these would be highly beneficial. The devotional patterns of the great “quiet time” masters are a fabulous resource to everyone of us.
But, they aren’t the first step. Sadly, many Christians engage daily devotional pursuits only to find them less than satisfactory. They want to escape their rat-race pace of life for a few minutes and find spiritual meaning before relaunching the day. In most cases, these well-meaning folks soon either give up the unsatisfying experience or, worse, allow it to become a piece of their daily checklist that seldom connects with how they live the rest of the list.
If we are going to engage God, the first thing we must do is STOP! Stop trying, stop striving, stop pushing, stop running, stop singing, stop chasing–just STOP!
While this brief blog doesn’t afford space to explore a full treatment of the subject, it does provide me with enough space to insist that Sabbath and solitude are the missing piece of most of our discipleship journeys. We want God to match His paces to ours, to chat with us when we put Him on our calendar, or to reveal himself in the occasional moments that we’re thinking of Him. It’s an interesting expectation coming from supposed followers. How is God leading our lives if we are dictating when He can speak or at least when we are available to listen?
The practice of Sabbath isn’t just a special treat for the monastic. In fact, it was one of the big ten directives God gave when establishing the covenantal behaviors of His people. “Thou shalt” rings through the list, punctuating eight of the commands, but the other two (honor parents and remember Sabbath) aren’t just mere suggestions. They carry the same insistent weight as no other gods and leave your neighbors wife alone.
Your doctor and nutritionist could underline your need for Sabbath–a day of rest, reflection, and complete letting go of work’s demands. But my point (and I’m running out of space to get there) is that without Sabbath and solitude, your people won’t ever find real success in their pursuit of God. We must stop! We must shut down the machinery! We must learn to sit quietly before Him so He can initiate the conversation. We must help people realize that in a true conversation with God, He almost always speaks first. That leaves our part of prayer and devotion as a response to what God is speaking into our lives.
How will you help people grow into that understanding? How will you guide them to practice such times of regular “quieting?”
SOOO much more can be said here, but ask yourself this–how are we truly pursuing God if we’re expecting Him to catch up to us and squeeze a few words in between today’s tight meeting schedule?