Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I just returned from our annual summer camping vacation in upstate New York. Cayuga Lake is always beautiful, and it's nice to spend time with my wife's family.

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to fish. My brother-in-law and I get up every morning at 5 AM, get on his boat, and fish for about four hours. Some years the fishing is great. This year it wasn't so good. The surface water was too warm for the fish we go after. About mid-week, the lake did a "turn over," but even though the water was cooler, the fish were skittish and we didn't catch as many as we would have liked. But even though the conditions were not ideal, it didn't stop us from going fishing. We still got up every morning at 5 AM with the hope of catching fish.

Do those of us who call ourselves Christians or church leaders have that kind of desire to catch fish? Jesus called His disciples (both then and now) to be fishers of men (see Mark 1:17). He said that He came for but one purpose - to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus' life was that of "fishing" for those who needed Him the most. Do we do that? My friend, Chris Conrad, wrote a book entitled, "Your Church Can Win." He mentioned some disturbing stats that come from our Wesleyan "tribe." A year ago, 400 of our 1700+ churches didn't report a single salvation. The year before that it was 168. Those same churches spent over $13 million doing ministry without seeing a single soul won to Christ.

I'm not out to crucify those churches. When I look at my own ministry and our church, we do a lot of good things but we aren't really reaching the lost in a significant way. We do a lot of good things related to ministry, but our focus really hasn't been on others. Oh, we talk about reaching the unchurched, and we encourage our people to be missional. And in many ways we are. But the sad part is that very few people have come to Christ through our ministries this past year. The church grew, but that was in large part due to transfer growth - people who left another church to attend ours. That's not growth - that's simply shuffling the deck! A truly missional emphasis will result in people being saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. Anything less is merely being a social service agency that does good for self-gratification.

I'm frustrated, but perhaps more so with my own failure in this area. I need to recommit myself to the task of reaching souls. I can no longer allow myself to be distracted by my administrative responsibilities at the local and district levels. God forgive me for failing to be a soul winner in recent years. I'm going back to keeping the main thing the main thing.

Gone fishin'.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Am I Concerned About America?

I met with a fantastic group of Christian men the other day. It's a group that gets together to pray and share truth in such a way that inspires the participates to go out into their daily grind and live wholeheartedly for Christ. As we met and shared on Monday, it was apparent that we are all concerned about the direction our country is going and what we would perceive to be the outcome of said path. The men in the group shared a number of concerns.

What I took from our meeting was a sense that the Church of Jesus Christ MUST take a stand. However, I am not advocating a social-political solution. Now, if God has led you to make a mark through the political system, go for it! I would never suggest that anyone not obey God's leading. But what I am suggesting is far more spiritual in nature, and we find the basis for these thoughts in 2 Chronicles 5-7. King David had turned the nation of Israel over to his son, Solomon (see 1 Chronicles 28). Solomon was anointed king, and he set himself to the task of building the Temple, the permanent place of sacrifice and worship for the Jews. Upon completion of the Temple, Solomon led the people in an incredible dedication ceremony as they consecrated not only the Temple but themselves to the Lord God.

God knew that His people had great intentions, but He also knew they had a propensity for spiritual failure. God also knew that this would bring about ruin in the land of Israel. But He gave them (and us) hope. I know you are probably familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14, but let me remind you of the key to the redemption of a nation that has fallen from God: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

The call here is for God's very own people to repent and turn back to Him! We can bemoan the moral collapse of our country and blame it on anyone we like, but God says that if we want our nation to be restored, if we want to become a great nation once again, His people - the Church - must get very serious about our relationship with Him. Too many people who sit in church pews (or other styles of seating) Sunday after Sunday do not have a relationship with God. Oh, they've prayed a prayer so that their fire insurance is paid up, but they are not passionately pursuing God! I know that sounds very condemning, but I perceive it to be true based upon what I see and what I hear from my pastor friends. America's complacency toward God is a result of our complacency toward Him.

The answer is not to rebel against the government nor against the church. I am a fan of the church! It is God's organization - the only organization Jesus both left behind and blessed (see Matthew 16:18). The answer to save America is within the hearts of those who make up the Church! Perhaps if we took our faith more seriously and passionately pursued God, others would hunger and thirst to do the same!

So what is your passion? What are you pursuing?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Don't Like Weakness

I spent time this week with my father. He's in a nursing home in my home town of Greenville, Pennsylvania. He's been there since falling and breaking a hip nearly two years ago. We've tried to convince Dad to move closer to us, but at age 88, he's determined to live out his life where he grew up and lived nearly all of his life. So my monthly visits consist of driving five hours, spending the day with him, spending the night at a local motel, getting up and spending the morning with him before driving home. I do enjoy my time with him.

Dad is getting weaker, and I don't like it. He's a man who worked hard all of his life. He worked for General Motors for 44 years in a factory. He served in the South Pacific during World War II. It's only been in the last 6 or 7 years that we've watched him become frail. It's hard to watch him as he is confined to a wheel chair, totally dependent upon others for nearly everything in his life. He has to be assisted with everything. It's hard to see this strong man in this stage of life.

I don't like what I see. And physically, I don't like what I feel. I'm not that old (I don't consider 52 to be old, no matter what you think!), but even now I face limitations that I never thought I would ever experience. At times I fear that I will some day be just like my dad.

But as I write this, I'm also reminded of a spiritual truth. Unless I am totally dependent upon God, I can never become the person He intended me to be. It is only in my weakness that I experience His strength. Do I struggle with this? Yes I do, and perhaps you do as well. I too often depend on my talents or intelligence to pull me through. More than ever I need to allow Him to be my strength. How about you?