Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail
I grew up in the church, and something I learned long ago is that the majority of God’s people want to serve and please the Lord. There are sin problems we fight, doctrinal confusions we must confront, personality issues that arise, and distractions that sidetrack us far too often, but many times we fail to recognize and acknowledge that, with proper direction, a great many Christians are ready to mobilize and be about our Father’s business. While the elders, deacons, and preachers have been frequently meeting together for the last couple of years to plan and organize the work here at Bear Valley, we have discovered so many positive things about each other. We are closer to each other and more excited about the church’s work. We care more about the lost and the saved, and we are eager to prove it and spread that attitude congregation-wide. As we have met and excitement has continued to build, I have been reminded of some basic, vital things that creates such an environment. Here are three needed things I believe that still get the Lord’s people excited.
Purpose. Have you ever heard a sermon on the church’s work and purpose? Of course! And bulletin and periodical articles, Bible classes, and gospel meetings and seminars. We talk a lot about purpose, but when you take tangible steps to accomplish the saving of souls, non-Christian and Christian souls, and meeting genuine needs you get excited knowing that you are partnering with God to do His will on this earth. Often, you have to measure progress in baby steps, but when you can look over an increment of time and see progress, it is absolutely exciting! When Barnabas worked with Antioch, he “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23). Purpose of heart still encourages the church!
Unity. I’m not talking cheap union that is built upon nebulous, conviction-less coexistence, but unity built solidly upon the bedrock of truth! That kind of unity is forged by having the difficult discussions, teaching the whole counsel, and striving together to fulfill the will of God. When you couple doctrinal conviction with the aforementioned purpose, the net result is a unity that excites! Joining with others who have the faith to take God at His word emboldens and propels you forward to do great things, right things, that glorify Him. The inspired David point this out, saying, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). Tell me that is not exciting!
Leadership. Who sets the pace in articulating purpose and urging unity? Leaders! We know who leaders are. They are the ones leading. They know where they are going and how to get us there, too. We hear their voice and are eager to follow. We are not willing to blindly follow those who are not right behind the Chief Shepherd, but those who are, in word and deed, we are willing to follow even through thickets and brambles. We trust them. We believe in them. In fact, “We esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Th. 5:13). God has designed elders to be those “senior leaders,” and He expects us all to be growing our spiritual influence and example. It’s exciting to be a part of a church full of people conscientious about their influence!
I’m not unrealistic or purely idealistic. I know that the Devil is unhappy with the church who is actively working to fulfill God’s purpose, being united in truth, and possessed of church leaders who have Christ as their pattern. We can let selfish ambition and improper motivation undermine the Lord’s will. But, let’s not be unmindful of how great the work is and how great our opportunity to partner together with Christ and Christians to do it. It’s exciting!
Have you seen The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore video where he is ebulliently exulting over the thunder snow he witnesses and knows to be captured by his cameraman? The YouTube video montage where he is on camera for six lightning strikes says it all. At one point, he implies that he’d rather experience this weather event than win the $500 million lottery. The enthusiasm is transparent and honest. You can’t help to feel excited about what he’s excited about because he so enthusiastically expresses it.
Being a Christian is not necessarily a non-stop fist-pumping, mountain-top experience. The late Wendell Winkler used to say that there are not very many mountain-top or valley days but that most were “in between.” He called it “the glory of the ordinary.” What we do on the ordinary days is what typically makes the bigger impact. However, the genuine enthusiasm of Christians is certainly contagious! Some of the best church leaders I have known have known how to inject others with zeal. Other words are “passion,” “desire,” and “excitement.” If this is artificial and contrived, it is eventually detected. True enthrallment for pursuing the will of God, though rare, leaves its mark far and wide.
What should fire our enthusiasm?
Challenge yourself. Ask, “What gets me excited?” If the Georgia Bulldogs were to ever win the National Championship again, look out world! I’d give those around me a “Jim Cantore” moment. My honest prayer is, “Lord, help my greatest passion and enthusiasm be reserved for the things that will endure after the heavens and the elements burn and melt” (2 Pet. 3:11). Let’s get excited about serving Jesus and doing His will!
It is said that when Dorothy opened the door to Oz and the movie’s colors went from sepia to Technicolor the audience gasped and that many stood up and applauded. Moviegoers had never seen a movie in color before. We take color movies for granted, but 75 years ago it was new.
Can you remember how excited you were to be able to surf the internet in the early 1990s. A page would load in mere minutes. Dial-up was such an innovation. Smartphone, tablet, and laptop users scoff, nay cringe, at the thought of such primitivity today. We are creatures cultivated by conditioning. What was once fresh and new can all too quickly become stale and old.
Did you grow up in the church or did you come to Christ through your own investigation or someone’s love and concern? Perhaps you can boast of being a third, fourth, fifth, or more generation Christian. You were raised knowing God’s plan of salvation, will for worship, and pattern for daily living. Perhaps it can at times seem like “old hat” and cause us to take the great blessing of salvation for granted.
One who came to Christ as a teenager or an adult may often have a special, intense appreciation for their “new” discovery. Over the course of time (and even generations), we may have to fight apathy and complacency. We can forget the joy and excitement of forgiveness or the feelings of peace and hope. If we “inherited” our faith, we may have to work harder at understanding just what a blessing we had handed to us by our parents and strive to appreciate what we may be taking for granted.
Understand that the blessing of salvation is more wonderful than anything we can imagine. Nothing new or better can follow that. The challenge is always for us to maintain appropriate appreciation for such atonement! Is it still new or do you maybe need to renew?