SOME SAY the churches that follow Jesus Christ are struggling now. But hasn’t it always been this way? For centuries we’ve been tested on how to express our faith authentically. This challenge began after the crucifixion and hasn’t stopped yet.
If we want people to turn to God, if that’s our true desire, then we must return to him as well. We can come up with all kinds of strategies, slogans, and stunts to attract people to the Church. But what will they find when they get there?
What’s your relationship with God like today? Maybe you feel worn out. Or maybe you even feel embarrassed at times to say you believe. So much of the world these days either hates, ridicules, or simply ignores us. What happens then?
Some become fearful and feel like they must fight to survive. They raise their voices to defend their rights. Or they misguidedly link patriotism to faith in God who recognizes all nations as needing his mercy.
No country is more deserving than another. And what might be a priority for your country, might not be a priority for God.
Others go on the offensive, obsessed with criticizing the rulers and influencers of our day. And all this attracts legions of followers who like a good fight.
But I say, the Lord doesn’t need anyone to defend him. Instead, he’s looking for servants. He’s looking for saints.
Jesus never found motivation in the desire to be popular or controversial. Those were simply byproducts of his holiness since purity attracts and challenges us all at once. Jesus did not come to compete. His mission and vision were far greater. Our Lord came to serve and save.
Many times our churches today fall into the trap of refusing to change. Or they rely on modern success seeking tactics — but with little Spirit and truth involved.
If the desire for success, popularity, or influence drives us, then it’s impossible to authentically share — or live — the Gospel message. Too many times these ulterior motives contaminate our leaders and communities.
How did Jesus do it? What was his strategy? He reached out to the sinner, the sick, the wounded, and the forgotten. That is who he came for. It’s that simple. Jesus acted by healing, liberating, and speaking in Spirit and truth. He sought the will of his Father above all things.
Jesus did not care about loyalty to a nation or headlines or statistics. He didn’t focus on a political cause. The Romans brutally oppressed the land of Israel. They imported their pagan culture and customs. But Jesus rarely, if ever, spoke out about this.
When he came face to face with Roman authority, Jesus silently accepted the death penalty. He gave himself as a protest and an answer to all the atrocities committed by humankind.
What did Jesus frequently criticize? He severely chastised the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy. Why? Because he knew that no worldly obstacle could stop the Good News of his salvation. He knew that those who carried his Spirit inside would break through any resistance to reach the tired, lonely, and sad. But he also knew that if the religious leaders did not experience a true conversion in their hearts, it would cause great damage to his Church.
I say, if we worry about Christianity dying or losing church members, then maybe we must examine our own faith first. What are my motives? Am I relying on worldly strategies and methods? What false gods are seducing me? Do I doubt God’s plan of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ?
Maybe I fear that my church might become poor and persecuted. If so, then I fear that my church might become more Christ-like.
So ask the tough questions of yourself and of the Church. Whose approval are we seeking? How much are our communities truly loving, giving, and welcoming? The Church should be relentless in seeking the sinner, sick, wounded, and forgotten. Because that’s Jesus’ strategy.
This will never grab headlines. It won’t make you popular in the eyes of this world. But that’s where the true fight is. And it’s where the Kingdom of heaven can be found.
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Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
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