Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:20-21 (NLT)
513 The secret of being effective, at root, lies in your piety, a sincere piety. This way you will pass the whole day with Him.
It seems like almost daily I get e-mails from well meaning people, who want to help pastors to become more effective. They define effectiveness differently, and often talk of different aspects of ministry. Some on discipleship, some on outreach, some of being more pure in doctrine. Many are willing to be consultants, put one seminars, even become coaches of those who serve the church.
Some of these people have great experience in ministry and rely on their experience. Some have studied it from a distance, and teach and coach based on observing others effective ministries. They all have god ideas, some work better in this place, rather than that place. It is good to have their ideas available, but it takes wisdom born of prayer to know which might work, and when to shift from this idea to that.
But effectiveness as a servant of God, in whatever role, is found apart from methodologies, strategies, and even experiences. For even as Christians are not clones of each other, but are gifted and driven by the Spirit as the Spirit desires, so are churches. Some are great at evangelism, some are great at being resource centers, some are great at ministering to those that don’t feel at home in a church, who need very tender care.
Because they are different, because we are different, the same rules, programs, processes, worship styles don’t work in the same places.
What is needed in every place? Piety, or what I prefer to define simple as “walking with Jesus” or “walking in Christ”. Piety is simply the practice of realize our lives are focused in Christ, they are not lived some how distant from God, and this is a good thing. We need Him!
He is there.
With His grace, His wisdom, His love, His comfort, and yes, He shepherds us. We learn of His heart, and we are transformed into Him image according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3. The transformation results in working in the ministry of reconciliation, just as presenting our bodies as living sacrifices results in the Holy Spirit using us in certain roles to minister to each other in Romans 12, and receiving the Lords Supper resolves into a similar discussion in 1 Corinthians 12-13.
Walking with God, Abiding in Christ, or even more clearly, the passage from Romans above – it is Christ that is living in us as we trust in His promises, in His work; there is the key to effectiveness, success, and even survival, whether as a church of 20, or one of 2000. Each different, each not just being directed by God as if we are soldering in Afghanistan receiving orders from the Pentagon and White house. Rather we are directed here, where we live, for we live and breath with Christ. There is where effectiveness occurs, there is where there is peace and joy, even in the midst of trauma, tribulation and even real persecution.
Walk with Him… talk, listen, love.. and see where He leads.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1949-1950). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day… and please discuss!
“You need interior life and doctrinal formation. Be demanding on yourself! As a Christian man or woman, you have to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, for you are obliged to give good example with holy shamelessness. The charity of Christ should compel you. Feeling and knowing yourself to be another Christ from the moment you told him that you would follow him, you must not separate yourself from your equals—your relatives, friends and colleagues—any more than you would separate salt from the food it is seasoning. Your interior life and your formation include the piety and the principles a child of God must have, to give flavour to everything by his active presence there. Ask the Lord that you may always be that good seasoning in the lives of others.” (1)
Over the centuries, one of the great issues for the church is how to encourage spiritual growth in the people of God. How to get encourage them to live lives filled with prayer and worship and both meditation on God’s word, and the indepth study of it. There is no doubt to the benefit of such interaction with God and His word, yet how do we do it? Add to this the theological discussion about the proper use of God’s law and gospel, and the issue gets further complicated. We have been told – and can make the case for from scripture, that we aren’t supposed us Law (rules with threats of active or passive punishment/reward) to motivate behavior within the church, but rather – receiving the incredible grace of God should result in our actions changing – as God works the change in us.
This is true not only for private spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, devotional study, and being involved in gatherings with other believers, but also things like evangelism, serving the needy…
The above quote is walking on the fence – primarily because of how people read the word “obliged”. If obliged is read as to mean you are blessed if you do, damned if you do not, then it becomes law. THe problem with using the law to motivate the behavior that should be natural to a Christian is that compliance is achieved through fear or greed – the positive or negative reward is why the act is being done. (Some would say – at least its being done – and the ends justify the means.) That form of compliance is often short-lived as well – for the reward diminishes over time, and what was once done with enthusiasm and excitement fades. (This btw is why I believe when the end result of becoming a Christian is the “reward of heaven”, people will soon lose interest – becoming a Christian is about Who we are in heaven with, and Who walks with us here)
But if obliged is something different – an inner compelling to love as a reaction to love, if Christ’s charity to us, to humanity is so overwhelming as it is, then we are compelled the same way a piece of wood is swept away by a river’s current – and the discipline is something internal, natural, the norm, not the goal. The spiritual growth simply becomes part of us, as we are swept along in Christ – the disciplines become part of who we are, rather than what we do.
Yet that still begs the question – how do we introduce these things to the new believer, how do we encourage and train, guide and pastor people, and indeed fellow pastors, in such beneficial and grace filled things. And how do we encourage it in our “mature” believers, those who have done without for so long, yet see themselves as “faithful”. How do we encourage and teach this to those who see no great need for indepth prayer and meditation?
How do we cause them to fall into the river of Christ’s charity and become swept into a life, lived fully in relationship, interacting with God, not just on Sunday morning (or the occaisonal Sunday Morning..) but as part of their life…
For that matter – how do leaders find the motivation to let Christ sweep us away..?
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1722-1730). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.