Recently, my wife and I have been looking for a new car, specifically a van that can accommodate our growing family. There are several varieties of vans out there. Each is made by a specific company that has set a specific price based on the bells and whistles that the car offers. With all of the options available, there needed to be something that guided my thinking in the decision making process. After determining my values, I knew I wanted a reliable manufacturer with a great reputation, a competitive price, and a product that would meet my family's immediate needs but also had enough features to make the van more than a soccer mom vehicle without a ferrari-like price tag. After a lot of research, test driving, and forecasting, I committed to one vehicle type.
Buyer's remorse is a real thing and before signing on the dotted line, I had to solidify in my mind and heart that a Honda Odyssey was the best vehicle for my family and that no matter what newer or trendier cars I might come across, I would be completely committed, and therefore invested, in making this vehicle a part of my new normal. This process asked me to commit to something that was safe and affordable but would inevitably bring with it challenges and costly repairs. Nonetheless, because of my belief that this was the best move for my family, I eagerly committed to the Honda Odyssey family.
This whole process reminded me of the intricacies of committing to a church family. While there are many options out there, we all chose the church that will best meet our needs and be our slice of Heaven on Earth. Many people join a church because of all the activities and ministries it offers. Others join a church because it has a good preacher. And some join a church because of its mission, vision, and the potential for deep relationships. We each find the best match and eagerly commit. We are excited, expectant, and energized as we navigate the ebb and flow of our new community. At that point, all the great reasons for joining are still present, and the waters seem untroubled.
But what happens when the preacher we love so much leaves? Or they cancel that favorite bible study group? What happens when those feelings of newness and excitement dissipate and the waters begin to be troubled? In those moments, our commitment level is tested, and the truth of if we joined with a "ME" focus versus a "HE" focus comes to light.
When we are "ME" focused, in the midst of challenges, we fight to hold on to the things that make us comfortable versus what is best for the overall body of the church. Nothing is more dangerous for a church than when its members begin to think and act as individuals or in small sects seeking to preserve "OUR" way. When this happens, we tend to gossip more and pray less. We begin to run toward a specific side or group based on issues oriented around politics, ethnicity, economics, or a common mistrust for leadership. But does any of this sound like commitment? Does any of that sound like how the church of Christ should function?
It has been said by each generation, myself included, that we long to see revival and be a part of a church that looks like the first century church. The issue with this lies in the fact that we love concepts, philosophies, and ideas, but we often lack the grind, commitment, and prioritization of the first century church. And if Hope Fellowship is to continue to rise up to be the kind of Christ-centered, disciple-making safe place for all people, we need to pray and hold fast to the characteristics and convictions the Holy Spirit sealed on the heart of the first century church.
It has been said that if the spreading of the gospel message is dependent on this generation and the next, it will die. This speaks directly to our need to be more committed and focused on Christ, His mission and His church. This also speaks to the need for the generations that precede the current one to rise up, sacrifice more time in order to disciple younger believers, and spend less time and money on the golf course or fishing.
I am challenging the people of Hope Fellowship to help us be the church we have been called to be by adopting these goals:
- I challenge you to attend church at least three Sundays a month and serve at Hope at least one of those three weeks. We attend church because we are called to gather as believers in order to receive accountability and grow in our faith. We need to commit to prioritizing our church family and not make it the variable in our lives that can be dropped in the event that it conflicts with a less significant matter.
I challenge you to aim to give $100 a month to see to it that we can operate successfully and do all that God has laid on our hearts. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 reminds us to give cheerfully, not reluctantly. This has nothing to do with the amount and everything to do with our hearts as we give. I challenge you to give to the church cheerfully!