No one likes to see the “maintenance required” light come on in their car. That little yellow/orange light is actually pretty annoying. We like to drive, to go places, to go places fast, and look stylish doing it, but maintenance is just so…boring. Yet too often, that’s just what we as leaders are doing in our churches: maintaining. We go into maintenance mode and then wonder where the excitement went. I totally understand, in fact, I’m realizing a am — or at least am in danger of being there right now. In a small church, there are so many demands and regular things to focus on, that it’s easy to lose sight of the very reason God called us into leadership in the first place. After all, with all we have to take care of, who has time for vision?
“Doing church” has changed a lot. When you look at the corporate gatherings described (not prescribed) in Acts, and look at what we do today in a typical church, it looks very dissimilar. They, the members, spent far more time fellowshipping, tending to one another’s needs, and being generous than we often seem to. The apostle taught some, and the received the offerings. They didn’t take the offering, they received it because people just brought them. On Sunday morning we gather, sing, announce upcoming events, take an offering, listen to a sermon, maybe sing some more and go home. We might do a Bible study mid-week, maybe a service, maybe a prayer meeting. We run outreach programs, VBS, AWANA, and a host of other programs and events. I bring this up to point out that we’ve given ourselves a lot to worry about. We keep ourselves very busy with things that are good things, but we sacrifice ourselves to them like they’re necessary.
I’ve come to a realization. It dawned on me while my wife was away at a convention for her essential oils business/ministry, as she was getting excited for where she wants to go with it and has been sharing some of her ideas and next steps. I began to think, “I wish my ministry seemed this exciting to me.” Now I wonder, “Why doesn’t it?” The answer is that I’m bogged down in maintenance and have lost sight of the vision. No one else is excited because I’m in maintenance mode and rather than hearing the engine rev and feeling the vibration of horsepower ready to go they just see the little yellow/orange light flashing.
This is not about strategy. It is not about casting a vision. It is not about our creativity or ability to administrate an effective organization. It is about our abiding in Christ. It is about our obedience to God. It is about following our Lord as he leads. A good friend of mine gave me this counsel recently: remember what God said when he called you. It’s so simple. Take time to go back and walk with God through your calling and ask, “Have I fulfilled it, or have I gotten off track?” We need to ask God to awaken us to his presence and work. Then we can see if we’re in step with him. We think our calling is to bear fruit and be productive, but that is actually a lie of the enemy to keep us busy in lesser things. We are never commanded to bear fruit. We are told that we will be fruitful as we abide in the Vine. We are commanded to abide.
Abiding in Christ is something pastors, generally, lose sight of all too easy. We are doers and we measure our worth and value to God and his kingdom by the numbers of attendees, of tithes and offerings, of programs, of baptisms, and of percent of people engaged in ministry. These can be helpful indicators — like the lights on our dashboard, but value and success are measured solely based on our relationship to God. Are you abiding? When was the last time you prayed without looking for answers? When was the last time you came before God without wanting a “to do” list, steps, directions, or … vision? When was the last time you came to God for God? No wonder we lose sight of vision for ministry when we’ve largely lost sight of the Goal: Christ. The question is not, “Who has time for vision?” The question is “Who has time for Jesus?”