riday evening I enjoyed the privilege of spending a few hours with around 40 men from Holy Innocents Episcopal Church here in Valrico. We enjoyed some great conversation, some really good barbecue, gathered for “the program,” and then hung around talking for another half hour at the end.
The program was me. The rector, Father Doug, asked me to talk for an hour about what it takes for men to shift their focus from being church members to owning their identity as disciples of Jesus.
MEMBERSHIP Vs DISCIPLESHIP: I’m always a little bit surprised at how this kind of event animates me. But I guess that’s what happens when you actually implement a personal mission statement. It’s one thing to come up with a few guiding principles, but it’s something else entirely to follow through and actually live a mission statement out loud.
Membership is all about numbers, I told them, it’s about counting. Whereas discipleship is about being, about being transformed, and about living as Followers of The Way of Jesus.
FUNDAMENTALISM? After my presentation was over I sat behind the book table and talked with a number of the men. One expressed concern about how we communicate (or not) the Good News beyond our doors. He said he wasn’t a fan of “witnessing,” and doing things like handing out tracts at airports, but that churches that do those things seem to have no trouble filling their parking lots on a Sunday.
I reminded him that fundamentalism in all religions tends to attract numbers. But it’s not the hard-line doctrine that draws people in, it’s the passion, the commitment, the enthusiasm, the unwavering conviction, and the personal invitations.
“Compromising God’s message via fundamentalism won’t keep our churches alive,” I said. “But, what will make us thrive is to embrace every day in such a way that our very lives tell the truth about the Gospel of Love.
“The most compelling witness any one of us has is authenticity,” I continued. “However, simply being on the church roles doesn’t mean that my life is defined by authentic faith; I must become a sold out disciple, I must be a passionate follower of The Way of Jesus.”
LIVE FAITH OUT LOUD: In other words, it’s not about what we say we believe; it’s about how we live what we believe. My “personal mission statement” will do nothing to advance the Kingdom of God until I begin to live it out loud.
This is the “so-what,” both of my mission statement and the end of my talk yesterday evening. If you are not “Exhibit A” when it comes to a Gospel message that’s literally transformational, then why would anyone want to come to your church? What are you inviting them to church for, small-talk and free coffee?
If you are not “Exhibit A” when it comes to a Gospel message that’s literally transformational, then why would anyone want to come to your church? What are you inviting them to church for, small-talk and free coffee?
Come on, we can do better than that!
LIVING TESTIMONY: Fact is, each one of us is a living testimony to something. We’re either a testimony to the transformational love and mercy of God through the saving grace of Jesus… or we’re a living testimony to the fact that the Gospel really doesn’t offer anything that might disturb our status quo.