The early church grew (Acts 2:41; 5:14; 6:1,7; 9:31; 11:24). As we read of this growth explosion, we see the key role member involvement played. Christians were spreading the word (8:4), involved in each other’s lives and in the lives of the lost around them. This is such a simple concept, but churches not practicing it are not growing. What is involved in involvement?
I–“I” am the heart of involvement. I must resolve to be involved. I must do my part, for I will give an account for my level or lack of involvement (1 Cor. 3:8).
N–“Negativity” is the enemy of involvement. “I can’t help.” “It won’t do any good.” “I don’t like working with that person.” Listen closely. Involved Christians rather say “I can do” (Phil. 4:13) and “we are well able” (Num. 13:30).
V– “Visitation” is a part of involvement. Matthew 25:34-46 confirms it. Non-Christian visitors, sick, imprisoned, and needy folks need it. Those who do it are richly rewarded, and those who are recipients of it profoundly appreciate it.
O– “Obedience” is the cause of involvement. Faithful Christians believe the commands to make disciples (Mat. 28:19), build up brethren (Rom. 14:19), and meet needs (Js. 1:27).
L– “Love” is the motive of involvement. Paul says good deeds, without love, are profitless (1 Cor. 13:1-3). The counsel of Scripture is “by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
V– “Victory” is the goal of involvement. By being involved, we help others win the victory (Js. 5:19-20), we help the cause of Christ advance, and we aid our own walk in the light that leads to eternal reward (1 Jn. 1:7).
E– “Everybody” is the scope of involvement. What able-bodied Christian is excluded from the work God has given the church? Once, a man did nothing and gave every excuse imaginable. We remember how that turned out (Mat. 25:28-30).
M– “More” is the adjective of involvement. That is, “more involved” and “more people involved.” Has there ever been a church with too many involved? God is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), and He wants to see us always trying to do more for Him!
E– “Evangelism” is the fruit of involvement. Active churches attract the curiosity of the community. Those involved in the church’s work naturally grow more spiritual-minded, and by this grow more bold in sharing the gospel.
N– “Now” is the time for involvement. What in our lives do we definitely know will change between now and the never-seen tomorrow (Prov. 27:1)? Let’s kill the excuses! Resurrect the enthusiasm! Start today!
T–“Teamwork” is the mindset of involvement. We’re to work together. No one man, no staff, no eldership, no group of deacons or others can or should do the work of an entire congregation. The local church is a team.
To become adequately involved, let’s ask three questions.
“What needs doing in this church?”
“Who needs help in doing it?”
“What can I do?”
Be an Isaiah, a child of God who enthusiastically says, “Here am I, send me” (Isa. 6:8)!
Corey Sawyers and I decided a few weeks back to go to the Georgia-Tennessee game at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, this past Saturday. Thanks to various reward programs and good deals, we were each able to do it all for less than a discount airfare. We were gone about 24, action-packed hours. We even were able to connect with the Shillidays, who had the same idea as us and made the trip from Colorado to Georgia. It was a lot of fun and we made some great memories. While there, especially in the several hours we were at the stadium, several things occurred to me that I would like to share.
People get emotionally invested and passionate about what they love.
Diverse individuals can unite around a common cause.
We sacrifice (time, inconvenience, effort, money, and voice) for what we truly care about.
We can be bold enough (vocally and visually) to let everyone know where we stand.
We may be too quick to forget past successes, but we’re also quick to forget past failures.
With sufficient interest, we can endure discomfort (backless seats, extreme heat and humidity, and no elbow room).
We do not let lack of knowledge or understanding of a subject (like the rules and strategy of college football) to keep us from speaking up.
We tend to be proud of our history and heritage (coaches, players, broadcasters, past seasons), feeling a sense of connection or belonging through it.
Despite aforementioned unpleasantries and sacrifices, most remain willing to do it again in the future.
We can quickly build a bond with likeminded people, even strangers, out of a common love.
It’s easy to see the comparisons and contrasts between our Saturday experience and trying to be a Christian in our world today. Obviously, I am not disparaging going to ballgames and having a good time. It’s great fun! But, it always reminds me of my need to exhibit greater commitment and zeal for the only thing that matters eternally. My prayer is that, in every way it can be measured, my heart, mind, soul, and strength will be most invested in loving the Lord, His church, and the lost. It also makes me aware of the vast potential in every person, properly directed, to seek first the Kingdom of God! How many, adequately exposed to God’s will and His offer of salvation, will wholeheartedly embrace and share it? Seemingly, the numbers are staggering! May we be enthusiastically about the Lord’s business.
It’ll take more than a sack lunch to go from Florida to southern Asia, but because some pet owners have deposited their no-longer-wanted pythons into the Everglade Swamp there have arisen some interesting ecological dilemmas. The most spectacular one I have seen had pictorial documentation to prove itself. There, in the black and white of the newspaper, was a Burmese python that had burst in its attempt to swallow…an alligator!
What about you? Do you have big goals and dreams? Where do you see yourself this time next year? By retirement time? In eternity? What tangible things are you “biting off” to make those goals reality? Do you have soul-winning and other spiritual goals? Would you like to be a “lighthouse Christian” whose example motivates many to be like Jesus?
How big are you thinking? How big can you think?
Remember that Paul included Christ in the equation (Phil. 4:13), so he was ready to take on the biggest challenges. He evangelized the then-known world (Col. 1:23). He stood before the leaders of the greatest nation on earth, men like Festus, Felix, Agrippa, and ultimately Caesar, and he preached Jesus to them (Acts 24-28; Phil. 4:22; Luke 21:12). He traveled perilous seas, enduring multiple harsh treatment (see 2 Cor. 11), and credible history says he was beheaded for his Lord. Paul, through God’s strength, felt he could change the world with Christ’s saving grace. Even though his wonderful ambition put him in the same ultimate position of that dislocated constrictor, what a memorable way to go. Unlike the snake’s, Paul’s efforts yielded everlasting benefits.
What are you ready to do for Christ? How far are you willing to go? What have you done to get started?
Maybe we shouldn’t apply the cliche, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” to Christian aspirations. In fact, chomp away!
A few years ago, the Baltimore Sun wrote an article about the outlandish excuses some people gave for not coming into work. To sample this pathetic pool, there was “my cat unplugged my alarm clock,” “I couldn’t find my shoes,” “my garage door is broken,” “my cat has hairballs,” and “my partner and I need to practice for the square-dancing contest in town today.” But, John Campanelli of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, relates perhaps the most classic excuse I have ever heard. It was related to him by Andrea Barnett, a human resources rep, whose MIA employee gave the excuse that he had been in jail. He had borrowed a friend’s car to get to work, which car was reported stolen by police. He said he was put in jail for possession of stolen property, a car he said had been used in a robbery. This caused the police to grill him about it, which kept him from calling in to work. He eventually convinced law enforcement of his innocence, thus earning his release. Incredible story! Incredibly untrue, Barnett found out when she called the sheriff’s office for whom that was a revelation. Runners up from Campanelli’s article include the man who was experiencing morning sickness due to his wife’s pregnancy or the guy who had to make an emergency visit to the dentist to remove dental floss that got lodged between his teeth getting ready that morning.
Excuses are not confined to employees. Students give excuses for late or incomplete assignments. Spouses and children give excuses to other family members for bad behavior or shortcomings. Leaders give excuses to followers, and followers give excuses to leaders. If we are honest, nearly all of us have been guilty of excuse-making. What we must guard against is perpetually making excuses for failing to do the will of God! Those who make any excuse to explain why they have not become a Christian will not successfully put them past the Lord on the great day of judgment (cf. Acts 17:30; 2 Th. 1:7-8; Jude 15). Christians who needed to publicly repent of a sinful lifestyle cannot expect to be successful standing before that same, perfect Judge (cf. Matt. 25:34-40).
Let us also strive to avoid flimsy excuses we give for lack of involvement or for failure to faithfully attend worship services. On the surface, these excuses may sound good to us. But, if we will step back and try to look at it from heaven’s perspective, it may sound less important and solid. Maybe we have not thought it through, that we are choosing things that are solely earthly, material, and temporary to the neglect of God’s will and purpose. We may need new and different excuses to cover our failures, but will they work in the end? God has placed us on this earth to accomplish His purpose, but if we fritter away our days and years on what will decay and dissolve to the indifference and disregard for heavenly matters what will we tell Him? Whatever we say, will it be less hollow or shallow than the excuses the fine workers of Baltimore and Cleveland gave? Rather than excuses, let us give God our best efforts. Instead of rationalizing why we cannot, let us realize why we can (cf. Phil. 4:13; 1 John 4:19).
While we must be concerned with doing what we do in worship according to Christ’s expressed will, we must also be sure to reflect His love to strangers, newcomers, outsiders, and otherwise unfamiliar faces. It offends my sensitivities anytime I hear anyone complain that a church I love so much seems cold and unfriendly to them. However, when I see so many focused on one another or on no one or hear accounts of our visitors complaining that we are neither warm nor welcoming, that love motivates me to say something. Please consider the following principles:
We must stop expecting that others will represent us in friendliness. Maybe we look at those seven or eight members of the congregation that “go after” our visitors and conclude that they are covering the bases for the rest of us. In a congregation our size, that is woefully inadequate. They cannot reach everybody, but even if they can their friendliness does not let us off the hook. Dear reader, the chances are great that I am challenging you!
We must not use our introverted nature as an excuse. It would be hard to get an accurate estimate, but it is probably fair to say that more of our members are introverted than extroverted. Yet, the introverts may mistakenly conclude that extroverts are merely doing what comes easy and natural to them. As a representative of the extrovert clan, may I suggest that reaching out and connecting with strangers and visitors requires effort. Everyone must make an effort!
We must avoid the thinking that the visitor bears responsibility to be friendly. Some visitors may be extroverted and resilient to connect with us, but we’re the hosts and they’re the guests. Think about how hard it is to come into an unfamiliar place where you know no one and reach out to them. This is our “home turf,” and we must always take the initiative!
We must practice the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Again, put yourself in their shoes. Treat them how you’d want to be treated if in their place.
We must see ourselves as direct representatives of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:20 calls us just that. Treat visitors exactly like Jesus would. Seek them out and do everything within your power to let them know how glad you are they are here.
We must understand the eternal implications of being friendly to visitors. Wouldn’t it be awful if we contributed to seekers, new Christians, and the like being discouraged, even to the point of walking away from Christ and His truth? We cannot minimize the eternal impact, for good or ill, we make by how we do in this matter.
We must break out of our ruts and routines.What creatures of comfort we are! What I am talking about requires us getting uncomfortable and changing our current habits. Avoiding eye contact, walking past unfamiliar faces, withdrawing into ourselves, talking only to those who talk to us or those we feel comfortable with may be the niche we’ve carved for ourselves over a long period of time. Confront those well-established patterns and insist on breaking them.
I want our congregation to be known for preaching and teaching the truth, but I want far more for us. Another thing I want is for us to be the church that doesn’t just embrace and accept “our own,” but who is always making room for one more. I’d far rather risk creeping someone out by bombarding them with extreme warmth than to turn a cold shoulder to one who was trying to connect with God. Wouldn’t you?
American born painter, James Whistler, was as controversial as he was competent. The artist best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (or, Whistler’s Mother), the famous painting depicting an aging woman in side profile wearing a bonnet, was as known for his arrogance and egotism (Peters, Lisa N. James McNeill Whistler. Smithmark: New York, 1996. p. 4). On one occasion, Whistler was told that a shipment of blank canvasses he had ordered was lost in the mail. He was asked if they were of any value and he replied, “Not yet, not yet” (Today In the Word, 12/3/92).
We are born into this world innocent and with endless potential. Some are born with many more advantages and opportunities than others. All of us who live to maturity leave this life, whatever we achieve, stained by sin having disappointed or transgressed against others. Yet, of what value will we be to those we meet? What to our families, our friends, the church, and the world? It depends upon what we allow God to do with our lives. He can take the most mundane, ordinary material and work a masterpiece through it. If we allow Him to work on the canvas of our lives, we will become infinitely better parents, spouses, and Christians. But, how can we become masterpieces in the hands of the Master?
Keep your heart soft (Eph. 4:32).
Have hands that are willing (Neh. 2:18).
Have feet that are ready (Eph. 6:15).
Maintain an open mind (1 Chr. 28:9).
Turn your face toward Him (cf. Job 22:26).
Strengthen your back (cf. Nah. 2:1).
Such is the possibility for everyone who submits themselves a blank canvas to be worked upon by the Master Artist. He is not arrogant. He is perfect. It is not a boast for Him to declare His ability to transform the dullness of our lives into the brilliance produced by the influence of His Word and will! You are not yet what you could be. When all is said and done, will you have been what you could be? The decision is made if you let Christ work upon you.
As this year is still very new, you may be looking back at the your past and contemplating your future. You may be the type that says, “I don’t ‘do’ resolutions.” Perhaps it is silly to suddenly jump into healthier habits and aim for higher heights just because the calendar indicates that the new day is a new year, but there is biblical precedence for continual striving to do and be better.
Paul writes Thessalonica and twice urges them to “excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1,10). Reading the text reveals that this more excellent approach includes proper walking and pleasing God (1). It includes practicing brotherly love (9). It includes sexual self-control and purity (3-7). It is attached to such behaviors as industriousness and evangelistic example (11-12). So, it takes in a wide variety of conduct that makes us better personally, morally, evangelistically, and ethically.
When you examine yourself this time next year, should the Lord allow time to stand, will you be living more excellently than you are today? If not, does that thought satisfy you? Don’t wait for January first, but don’t delay for any reason. Get started today on becoming a better you. This will benefit yourself, those around you, and the kingdom of God! Who needs more incentive than that?