As the year comes to a close, our church has review the current year’s budget and drafted a budget for the coming year. It’s at times like these that we tend to measure the success of the year. For us, we didn’t quite meet our meager budget. In these moments we, as church leaders, can kind of beat ourselves up a little or lament the things we lack that would enable us to do a better job building the church.
Here is my question: Whose church are we building? It’s easy to get caught up in church growth banter and current trends and assume that we need more people, more money, more programs…or even just the right programs if we are going to build up the church.
Here is my thought: It’s not our job to build the church. Jesus said very clearly that on the rock of the confession of his lordship that He would build his church. His charge to the apostles was to feed his sheep. God has equipped us with everything we need. We lack no good thing. So maybe what we’re really missing is true surrender.
God has been leading me to look at Peter’s life. This is a man who wanted to show his zeal by declaring that he would never let Jesus be taken, mistreated, and crucified. He tried to show the strength of his faith by walking on water. He tried to show his devotion by refusing to leave Christ in his time of need. In all of these things, he failed. This failure was not arbitrary, but rather a servant of God to bring Peter to the place of dying to self, surrendering wholly to God, and becoming the new man God intended him to be.
My failures serve the same purpose. I can think myself awfully clever, sometimes gifted, and often very capable of doing great things for God. I need to learn that in my natural self: my natural will, natural morality, natural wisdom and strength, that I am not. I cannot “do things for God,” and I cannot “invite God in”–not into my life, nor into my ministry. I must surrender to him. I must forfeit everything. I must let go and let God be God. He must lead and I must follow. For this to happen, I need to be brought face to face with the woeful insufficiency of my flesh, my idols, and my own will. I cannot be raised in Christ if I am never crucified and buried in Christ. Resurrection requires death.
God has done a great work in me, and he will bring it to completion–though I have not yet achieved this. Does this sound familiar? Even Paul, the great apostle, understood this great work of resurrection. It is a painful process, and by virtue of our pride and ignorance, it can be a very long process. In the words of James, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, because this testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete and mature, not lacking anything.” Embrace failure and unmet expectations as the working out of your salvation — the death pains of your old man leading to the resurrection of the new.
What are you trying to do for God in your own power? What are you holding onto as your burden when really it belongs to God? What may be standing in the way of total surrender? An attitude? A mindset? Tradition? Habit? Where might God be leading you to surrender wholly to him?