LifeLink Devotions (Click here for audio blog)
Thursday, February 17, 2022
On August 16th, 2003, I was sitting with a group of men from my church at a Promise Keepers Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was at a time when our church was beginning a process of evaluating space and facility needs. Our current facility was not adequate to meet the needs of many people in our congregation because it wasn’t handicapped accessible, we were seriously limited in classroom space, and we had no room to grow on the current location. As I sat in that conference I remember my mind swimming with all the possible ideas of how God would solve these problems. Would we buy another building and renovate it into a church? Would we buy land and build a new ministry center? Where would a small group of people get the money to do either of those things? How was God going to do this?
Meanwhile, Pastor Erwin McManus was being introduced as the next speaker. Pastor McManus began by reading Deuteronomy 2:24. “Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle.” I thought it was a little strange for a challenge to pastors he was about to deliver. But as he explained the historical context of that verse, it became clear to me what I needed to learn. God had commanded Israel to conquer the lands He was giving them. They soon rejected that plan and refused to take possession of the Promised Land. They became weak. They lost their vision. They were negotiating with their enemies. They were not engaged in God’s battle, but were satisfied to simply wander through life trying to survive their wilderness experiences. I made the connection quickly that this is what is happening to churches today.
God spoke clearly to me that day. I knew that I never wanted to fall prey to the secularized ABC success system – Attendance, Building, and Cash. As I listened and prayed, it became obvious that God was calling me and the church to see its commission from God – engage the enemy in spiritual battle to take possession of lives for Jesus Christ. I resolved before God that day that everything I would do in my ministry would be about obedience to God’s commission.
I heard God say several important things to me that day. “Churches that are not afraid to engage their culture will capture their culture for Christ.” I believe we as pastors, church leaders, and church attenders have sold out to an institutionalized version of the church. We consider it a profession, or a mere job, or nothing more than community service, when in reality it is the call of Almighty God to accomplish an eternal and glorious purpose. We have become nurturers not warriors. We no longer serve with courage to win the world but in fear of what the world will think. We have lost the confidence that the gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. I saw clearly that day that attendance, buildings, and cash flow were all distractions from the real purpose for our church’s existence – to engage the people of our community with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and watch God take possession of their lives.
Following that conference, three things happened to confirm the message. Let me share the first one today. At that time our church was holding two services each Sunday because of space limitations. Following the second service, I watched as a man sat in the sanctuary with a high school student who was in church for the first time. He was a troubled young man who seemed to have no hope. He was introduced to Jesus, and God took possession of His life. The man who shared the truth with him had never met him before, but because he was committed to Christ’s commission the Holy Spirit led him to speak to the young man. I talked to that young man in church the next week, and he was thrilled with his new relationship with His Savior, and is already growing in his love for God.
We must stay focused on why we exist as a church – to connect people to God. We must be personally committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and families. Let’s recommit ourselves today to engaging our culture with courage and conviction, and watch God conquer the land.