A Fresh New Encounter with God!
“You know we have done this before and nothing ever changed.” This was a man’s response to his pastor’s new presentation of a church mission and vision statement. The pastor and leaders in his church had spent several months of talking and praying about the future of their church. There was great passion in the pastor’s presentation. But, this was the sort of ho-hum response of this long-time church member. I’m sure this man was not alone in his blasé feeling that morning.
This same scenario has been repeated over and over again in churches in the US. Pastors and lay people who are burdened and many times frustrated with the dwindling attendance and lack of fruit try to find something that will turn the church around so that it is producing spiritual eternal fruit for the kingdom. They pray, talk, pray, plan, pray, promote, and yet, nothing seems to change. Why? They prayed. They built a vision of mission and ministry based on scripture. They have good people in the church. What’s missing?
What’s missing? There could be several things missing. The church world has developed all kinds of surveys designed to let you know what’s missing. Many of these are very good and have greatly helped address deficiencies in a church’s ministries. However, even many who have used these surveys will admit they have not always helped address the problem of a lack of spiritual fruit. So, what is still missing?
Maybe the key element we are missing is God. With all our programs, surveys, mission and vision statements, new leadership paradigms, new “relevant” worship styles and songs, and the plethora of ways available to communicate the Gospel-none of these are bad things- and yet, we are not making any significant impact in the lives of those who don’t know Christ and the surrounding culture. Maybe it’s time to ask the question, “Are we missing God?” Have we inadvertently left Him behind? Since we say we are a church, sing songs of worship, know God-talk, and how to practice Christianity, have we taken for granted that God is with us?
Could it be that we are like some of the churches in the book of Revelation? Are we like Ephesus, that even though they were still maintaining a level of faithfulness they had left their first love? Are we like Sardis, that had the appearance of life, but were really dead? Or, are we like Laodicea, that even though they were rich and had everything they needed, they were useless because they were lukewarm? Could it be that Jesus is standing at our door knocking to get in because we have inadvertently left Him outside?
I believe the missing element is God! I believe the answer to the blasé attitude (“You know we have done this before and nothing ever changed.”) is to have a transforming encounter with God you have never had before; a transforming encounter akin to a burning bush, a whisper on a mountain, a smoke-filled sanctuary, a great catch of fish, a bright light on the highway, and a vision of Jesus that leaves us falling on our knees as if we were dead. We need an encounter with God that leaves us transformed in the same way the men and women of scripture were transformed when they had close encounters with God.
The accompanying physical phenomenon is not what matters. We don’t need a bush on fire, a smoke-filled sanctuary, etc. However, we do need an encounter with God which changes us in the same way it changed the people in scripture when they encountered Him; a transforming encounter changing how we perceive God, ourselves, others, and His mission. We need to be set on fire by the glory of His presence. It is His inflaming presence in us which will return us to our first love, fill us with life, and drive away the lukewarm blasé attitudes which infect much of the US church.
We must seek God! We must seek God! We must seek God! This is not about finding the secret to growing a church. God must not be sought as the key to the demise of the church or to prop up our dwindling attendance or help us balance our budget. This is about seeking and finding God just because HE is God. This is about knowing Him for the sake of being created to know Him.
When we know Him, He will set our hearts ablaze with His life and love. All the encounters I mentioned earlier resulted in transformation and mobilization. The result of being transformed by God is always mission. Those who know Him will be mobilized on His mission. Then our mission will be motivated by the fire of His life and love in us giving us the potential to penetrate the darkness.
If, The Evangelical Church is to be relevant to the mission of God to bring His kingdom to earth, then we must seek and find Him. We need transforming encounters with Him which will restore Him as our first love, give us new life, and set us ablaze with His love dispelling our lukewarmness and destroying our blasé attitudes. He is what we are missing!
In my “2017 General Superintendent’s Call to Action” to the Annual Conferences, I challenged us to be a movement of disciple-making churches. In that call to action the first step is to change our denominational culture. The key to changing that culture is a fresh new transforming mobilizing encounter with God.
Therefore, I am calling on all congregants and churches in The Evangelical Church to set aside the last half of this year to seek an encounter with God. Make it a matter of prayer and obedience to find Him in a life transforming and mobilizing way. I believe this to be the greatest need of our church. He is what we are missing.
Are you ready to encounter God in a fresh new way?