Earlier this week, as part of my Dangerous Prayers post, I mentioned that I’m known as the “reluctant pastor” because being the lead pastor of a church wasn’t what I planned to do with my life. But, as the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, make a plan!
My parents were friends with Bill and Gloria Gaither, two of the most influential Christian music artists in world, and I had the privilege of working for their music company straight out of college. I took what I thought was a quick diversion to Oklahoma City to help with the youth and choir of a small church there. My plan was to return to music once this little church had their permanent staff in place--that’s when God made it clear that Oklahoma City was where He wanted me and leading a church was what He wanted me to do.
I didn’t know a lot about leading a church, but I knew enough to consult the Bible. I went to the book of Acts, knowing that it gave an account of the first church. My heart started pounding at the end of chapter two. It seemed so simple: they gathered daily at the temple, ate meals together, shared the Lord’s Supper together, prayed and met in homes together. And they sold their belongings to help people who needed them. People saw what was happening and more started showing up. It was simple.
Then I came to the verse that changed everything for me in Acts 4:34:
There were no needy people among them.
What if we started getting serious about meeting needs--spiritual, emotional, physical, social, financial, and intellectual? That would mean total transparency; it would require vulnerability and being open and honest with each other. We would need to tell our stories: the good, the bad, and even the ugly.
We’ve tried to do that at our church and when we are at our best, we do a pretty good job of reflecting the values of the early church. Yet, with over 7,000 active members, it sometimes still feels like we are storming the gates of hell with squirt guns. There is so much brokenness in the world.
I don’t think anyone could argue that we stand in a pivotal place in history; Christians can be a voice of change for the good or one that is shouted down for being irrelevant, intolerant, and ignorant.
What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to change to stop the insanity.
I believe that Christians have the only answer to the insanity and the brokenness: Jesus. He is our best hope--our only hope--for meeting the needs of people around us and for restoring the brokenness we see everywhere.
If we want to be part of seeing to it that “there are no needy people among us,” where do we possibly begin? That’s easy. We have to start with ourselves. We need to recognize those areas in ourselves that need to be restored and healed. Then, we need to let God come in and do His restoring work in us before we can be helpful to others. We are all restoration projects, works-in-progress in which God is the Great Restorer.
God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. -Philippians 1:6
God won’t walk away from His project halfway finished; He will see it through to the end. As we let God work out the necessary changes in our lives, we can bring change--change for the good--to those around us. We can bring about the necessary change until there are no needy people among us.
This post is adapted from the first chapter of my new book, Restored: Getting Back to who You Were Meant To Be, which will be released late June. The book is based on a couple of sermon series I preached, Reset and What Would Jesus Undo? In Restored, I cover several topics in which people tend to get off-course, how God can first expose those areas, and then offer power through the Holy Spirit to bring restoration and set us in a new direction. The book will hit stores in a couple of weeks, including the bookstore at my church, Crossings Community Church.
I'll be sharing more information about Restored in the coming weeks--subscribe to get the latest updates!