Well, our family is packing up and about to head back to NC for Christmas. It will be such a blessing to see family and spend time with them. It will be difficult, to say the least, with this being our first Christmas without my Granddaddy. I'm really not looking forward to this "first." However, I know that God's grace is sufficient and in our weakness His strength is shown to be perfect. Please pray for our family and pray for us as we travel A LOT over this next week.
Well, to the point of this post. With a new year comes the usual end of year preparation for a pastor. I've hammered out most of my preaching schedule for the upcoming year. But also, one of the end of year New Year preparations for most pastors is brainstorming as to what the church can do "different" this year to serve the community and engage more lost people with the Gospel.
Now, before I make this point please do not interpret this to mean that I think we shouldn't work to adapt to the changing times in regards to finding new and appropriate ways to communicate the Gospel. But with that being said, I have wondered recently that if in the midst of all the "What if we..." thoughts that run through pastors heads as we approach a new year, if God doesn't look at our brainstorming with the response, "What's wrong with My plan?"
I mean is there really anything better than "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another?" Is there really anything more effective than the Church simply being the Church in its community. I just tend to believe that if a church in any community would get serious about being the Church in that community, reaching people with the Gospel will be a natural outflow of that. What can be more of a witness in a community of lost people who are dead in their sins and trespasses before God and who continually supress the truth they clearly see about God than a group of people in their same community who are distinctly different than them. What an impact a Church could have on a community if it simply treasured Christ above all things and let that treasuring of Christ affect every aspect of their life: how they raise their children, how they love their spouse, how they spend their money, how they spend their time, how they serve their community, what they talk about to each other and to their lost neighbors, how they have a yearning for a people half-way around the world to know Christ and they are sacrificing immensely to see that take place.
Do you know what will happen as a church like that lives a radically agressive and distinct life as the Body of Christ in their community? Well, not only will they naturally be talking to people about the Gospel "as they are going," but those around them (family, neighbors, co-workers) will begin to ask "for the reason for the hope that lies within them." And as the Church begins to answer that question, the Gospel finds a natural path to travel down and hearts will begin to be changed by that Gospel and communities will begin to be changed by that Gospel.
You see, it's not that God's plan of the Church being the Church in its community has failed at reaching that community with the Gospel and changing it, but rather that God's plan of the Church being the Church in it's community just simply has not been attempted.
So, "what if we" just started being the Church this New Year!