I am a particular shape (Though some may say peculiar). My shape is based on several different aspects – Genetics, lifestyle, diet, age and many more.
It became evident to me that my shape may need a little improvement when my youngest son came up to me, patted me on the stomach and said with deep love and a little excitement “Dad, I hope it is a little sister!”
If I had not been so lazy and unfit I would have fallen over in shock. I finished off my coke and chips and contemplated what had happened to my shape. I was once a representative footballer and cricketer. On a Saturday morning I would compete in a juniors cricket team, drive across town to a senior’s competition and then play representative cricket on Sunday. During the football season I would play a school game of AFL, Rugby Union and/or Rugby League and then play in a couple of teams on the weekend. I reminded my supportive wife of this fact to which she playfully responded (playfully is what I choose to believe) “Not anymore!” and “Now you could be the team”.
What went wrong? As I pondered this question and how I could address this apparently ‘BIG’ problem, I began to reflect on the ‘shape of mission’ in our churches. It became apparent that the reasons I had gained weight were comparable, in some ways, to why the church had lost its missional impact.
I was too busy with the family
Life is busy – I have a growing family, financial responsibility, work and church commitments all calling for my time, energy and focus. Over the years, my focus had shifted from looking after my health to looking after the home. Churches in the same way, as they grow and develop can easily shift focus to caring for the house rather than living a missional life for Jesus.
All of a sudden, people find themselves on rosters, attending bible studies or running evangelistic events all based around building the ‘house’ or bringing people into the church. This focus whilst important and necessary should not crowd the people in the church from a healthy missional lifestyle. A lifestyle that is about sharing the person of Jesus not sharing the works of the church, a lifestyle of building relationships not simply inviting to events and a lifestyle of serving the people of God without neglecting those who are not yet family in faith.
Are you focusing too much on the church and not enough on winning people to Jesus? It may be time to stop being so comfortable and start to walk outside a little.
I was putting too much in and not using it
When I was younger I would walk from school to football training on a Tuesday afternoon and buy two BBQ chickens and a 2lt orange juice, consuming both before training. It was apparent to me that a possible reason for the increase in my cuddliness was that although I still ate a considerable amount, as I did when I was younger, my body did not metabolise it fast enough nor did I do enough exercise to burn the food I was consuming.
Again, this same problem seems to occur in the modern church. We are inundated with the “bread of life” which is “the word of God”. We consume more information on mission and church than ever before. We have bookshops, ebooks, magazines and weekly messages expounding the amazing words of the Gospel yet, after consuming this rich diet of delectable treats we do nothing with it! We need to regain the understanding that we are fed, not to gain girth, rather to use this diet as an energy source, motivation and guide in living the Christian faith and mission.
Are you a doer of Gods word? Do you allow the truth that you consume to build you into the image of Christ and empower you to ‘go therefore’? We may need to stop eating and begin to digest and live out what we already know.
I was trying to do what I had done before
One of my struggles has been that when I do exercise I become disheartened that what I used to be able to achieve at the gym and on the field I could no longer emulate. The 200kg+ that I was once able to bench press and the sprint training that I used to do, seemed to do nothing more than embarrass and mock me. Even trying simple exercises, that I would have once warmed up with, causes undignified grunts and groans and a weeks recovery. Times have changed and so has my body.
This same problem plagues churches when it comes to mission. The program that worked so well in the past no longer has the same results. People no longer accept the invitation to attend church and if they do, they find it increasingly difficult to bridge the cultural divide between the society and the church. This is not surprising as we serve a ‘living God’ who desires to do a ‘new thing’ in a vastly different world. Yet, we still stand striking the rock as Moses did in a failed attempt to recapture what God has done previously, rather than speaking to it as God has commanded. (Exodus 17:6, Numbers 20:8-12)
We need to do a new thing to reach a new culture and a fresh generation. Are you just trying the same old thing to reach your community? Have you simply given up, thinking that you cannot do it? God is wanting to do a new thing in your church through you. It is time to try something new.
I was not committing to a team
The motivation that I once had as a member of a sporting team has gone, replaced with the motivation of an hour at the gym, which does not always inspire regular attendance. I have realised that I was once committed to health because I was in a team that was committed to fighting together for a common cause. I no longer had that commitment to a cause and my ever expanding pants size was the inevitable result.
It is so much easier to do something, that is a challenge, when you have a cheer squad and a teammate. We have lost much of the two by two discipleship that was so effective for Jesus. I know if I am ever going to regain my health it will be with the support and encouragement of a friend. Likewise, I also know that churches will only ever regain their mission shape when people join together to champion the cause of mission and keep leaders, friends and pastors accountable for an active, relevant and sacrificial mission agenda.
Do you have a mission partner? Someone who you can speak with, pray with and mutually support. Does your church place mission as a priority in all things?
Let’s regain our mission shape as a church and as a denomination.