In recent weeks I have shared and reflected upon the shocking and heart-rending fact that hundreds of FM churches could not report so much as one new Christ-follower in 2008. I have noted that this is an instance of self-defeating performance that profoundly violates our core tenets as earnest followers of Christ in the Wesleyan tradition. I am confident that this does not represent our future. Let me tell you why.
First, if this does represent our future, we shall have none. We are finished, caput, null and void, charter cancelled, foundation shattered, little better than blight on our beloved Lord’s missional agenda. We shall become, if we are not already, like the tree that was put on notice, given extraordinary opportunities to shake off its unfruitful ways, fortified with extra fertilizers, showered with nutrients, prayed over, and for one final year hoped for—all to no avail. Thus, the master gardener will refuse to waste the soil any longer, chop us down and put us out of (or is it into?) our misery (see parable in Luke 13:6-9)!
Second, I have been sharing this uncomfortable truth all over the mid-west this summer and our people have at least said the right things in response and begun to do some of the right things as well. There has been deep sorrow, earnest entreaties of the Lord, firm resolve and solemn promises to do whatever at whatever the cost. I have had only one person, a pastor, engage me in conversation in an attempt to “explain” why he put a zero on the report last year. And, in contrast I have had very many pastors confess to me that they put a zero last year, but they will not do so again.
As I have concluded my less than cheerful talk on past dismal performance I have suggested some things they could do to position themselves and the church on a path leading to a fruitful future. Here they are:
1. Determine: not here, not now, not us! The one who created the world out of nothing and who raised Jesus from the dead is on your side when you say this!
2. Pray your determination. Pray for opportunities to get into the action, for people you know, for people to meet, for opportunities to come.
3. Use the good senses God gave when he created you and the Spirit now wants to fine tune within you. Use your eyes—open them widely. Look intently and ask, “What’s really happening?” Use your ears and listen. What are you hearing? What impresses you? What might God be saying to you in that situation or to that person?
4. Do something. There are so many options. Where is someone hurting? Where do you see a need? What could be done? Do it! Do it and know you’re probably doing more than you know. Beyond or beneath the need something else is going on. God will open a door.
5. These are things you can do as individuals. Think what you might do in partnership with others, as church, even a small church. Think what could happen if the church was totally at the disposal of God in its community. There’s just no way a whole year could pass without at least one new follower!
Lord Jesus, be blessed and delighted by your obedient people!