Yesterday I got to sit with about 60 or so other pastors and participate in a video conference call with Steve Sjogren. I planned on updating what I was being challenged with, but that obviously didn’t happen (no excuses, although I have some). Anyhow, what I thought was great was Steve’s obvious passion for simply serving people outside the church instead of stuffing them full inside the church. Ed Young did a series called The Table where the basic premise is that the church is a table where people come to get fed. But he cautioned against gluttony and fat and ineffective christianity where people refuse to push away from the table. They’d rather eat and eat and eat instead of go out and invite others to the table and then help to serve them. Well, Steve is all about making people hungry and thirsty for the life-giving truth of Christ.
I was challenged to realize that I spend a bit too much time with my computer, notes and yes, even my Bible and not enough time with people. People that God loves and died for. People who just want someone to care – genuinely without expecting anything in return. Another interesting point that was brought out was that a lot of churches and pastors spend a lot of time talking about the teachings of Paul (practical how-to stuff) but forget or at best spend less time talking about what Jesus said (simple calls to action – you either do it or you don’t). I see what he was saying. Share what Paul says about living the “Christian” life, and we know that we should exercise our spiritual gifts, demonstrate the fruit of the spirit and be careful not to be a “stumbling block”.
Jesus simply said, love God a lot (with all your heart, mind, soul and strength) and love your neighbor like yourself. Face it, if we don’t really love God or love others, does it really matter if we use our gift of leadership or mercy or hospitality in the church? Does it really matter if we’re gentle, self-controlled and so good that nobody could be offended by our behavior – if we have a shallow, weak, decaying relationship with our God? Heck no…we become like the pharisees… white-washed tombs that look good on the outside but inside are just dead.
I’m always a ‘how-to’ guy. Just give me the steps and we’ll go, get it done and implement whatever change. The problem I’m seeing is that the change needs to start in my heart. As much as I say I love people, I’m not out really showing that love in practical and simple ways that demonstrate the love of Jesus. Happens sometimes, sure, but it’s not my lifestyle and habit and I have to ask why? I’ve come to the conclusion that 1) I’m still scared of being rejected so I retreat to my comfort zone and 2) it’s how I’ve been raised and taught – nice acts are events, they’re not a lifestyle. Serving has been a program – a few hours here or there, not a value where opportunities are sought out, identified and acted on. Something’s got to change and I was politely reminded of that yesterday.