Elements of Vision (Part 5)
I recently ministered at a church pastored by Mitch and Sandra Rhoden, dear friends of mine for many years. They are pioneering a work in Macclenny, Florida, and are especially doing an excellent job with their Christian school.
Right before service, the first night of the revival, I was in prayer. As I communed with God, I asked, "What could I share with these people that would help them build their church?" Immediately, I sensed the Lord saying, "The same thing I am doing to build My church." Then the Scripture—Deuteronomy 7:9—flashed in front of me.
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.
I believe that the following inspired thoughts I received are applicable, not only to church growth, but to the success of any ministry, business, family or righteous endeavor in which you are involved.
1. Faithfulness—The first key is inwardly commit yourself to be faithful to the purpose or cause you have initiated. To be faithful is simply to be full of faith: to believe in something or someone so much that you commit to it entirely, without wavering. You are there for the 'long haul,' and intend to see it through to the end. Even a plant cannot bear fruit if it is uprooted and replanted every few months or years. Stick it out. Stay rooted. Sometimes it takes many years to make your calling and election sure. There is a vertical faithfulness (toward God) and a horizontal faithfulness (toward others). Together these two 'beams' produce your 'cross' in life. Shun the cross and you lose the crown.
2. Covenant—Next you should acknowledge that you are in covenant with those you are ministering to or working with. A covenant is more than a contract. A contract is usually made out of distrust. A covenant is made out of trust. It is a loving, yet binding agreement between two or more parties, each obligating himself to perform certain duties.
3. Mercy—After making a covenant commitment, God promised the availability of mercy (compassion that is shown especially to offenders). He knew, even though He would not fail the covenant commitment, His people would. So in a sense, He stored up a reservoir of mercy, to extend it to His own in times of failure. And so it is for anyone in leadership. Whenever you are working with people, they will, at times, fail to live up to your expectations. What's the answer? Build up a mercy reservoir in advance. Ready your heart to always be in a stance of forgiveness and restoration.
4. Love and Commandment-Keeping—Notice the order in which this statement is made. God promised to be faithful to, to make covenant with, and to be merciful toward…those who love Him (that's #1) and those who keep His commandments (that's #2). So His first concern was to create a 'love-response' in His people. Obedience would then be the automatic outcome. So God delivered them, provided for them, spoke to them and moved for them in many ways, as they journeyed through the wilderness. Through it all, God was developing in them a response of love, because He knew, if the people truly loved him, they would automatically obey.
In a similar way, you and I, as ministers and leaders, must go forth into this world with a love motive. We are not just trying to force people into believing what we believe, or force them into joining our group, or force them into buying what we have to offer. Love begets love. And if we truly express love by selflessly serving others, and showing real concern, we will automatically reap 'obedience.' Those we seek to influence will far more readily 'obey' the truth or respond to the requests we make, if they know we really care.
5. A thousand generations—God is always building for the future, even when He is meeting a present need! Remind yourself often that you are not just working for your own success, right here, right now; you are leaving a legacy that will affect future generations. Get the big picture!
So this is how God is building His church in this world: by faithfully committing Himself to His people, entering a covenant with them, responding to failure with mercy, and engendering in them a response of love that automatically gives birth to obedience. He also sees the 'big picture' of where this is all taking us.
If it works for God, it will also work for you.