This morning, as I worked on my consolidation of over one year of blog entries, this one struck me as timely and meriting a re-post given its message:
“Today I am preparing to lead a spiritual conversation with a group of businessmen, and my thoughts seem to be gathering around the Book of Nehemiah. In fact, this book has been a pivotal narrative in my life, as the Lord has often used it to advance my thoughts regarding participation in municipal leadership.
Nehemiah’s reaction in prayer, after receiving a report on the state of Jerusalem, reveals my own heart for cities:
“‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’”
“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, ‘O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.’”
“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’”
“‘The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.’” Nehemiah 1:3-11 NLT
Years ago, after abandoning my professional career as an educator in order to help with the build out of a large church in my hometown, I was not long into this adventure until I realized that in the thrill of church growth, we as church leaders had lost focus of our original mission. We had in fact, begun to concentrate more on sustaining the means, the tool, than the mission; the tool being a church facility, the mission being discipleship of our city.
The Body of Christ, at its best, is a singular entity composed of many called out individuals, each endowed with the same spirit as Christ. With that spirit, comes the gift of discernment, readily available if chosen, to determine when one is off task. In the early church, when divisions occurred, brothers and sisters in Christ would come together to determine what seemed “good to them and to the Holy Ghost” and thus making necessary adjustments before moving forward. Even if divided, their objective was still delivering the gospel to cities, places of assembly only becoming a necessity after the conversion of people in those cities.
My guess is that somewhere over the centuries it became more convenient to simply move forward in competitive disagreement (denominations), than to exercise true spiritual discernment amidst our conflict resolution? Something seems to have been lost over time, as more often today our first thoughts as church leaders are about tweaking organizational structures, applying well honed leadership theory or simply hiring consultants to provide for more competitive marketing; rather than coming together as churches to offer sacrificial service to our cities.
Our result, numerous sects within Christianity, multiplied thousands of facilities, minimal resources available to invest in ministry and a broken trust among the Body of Christ.
Our churches, though their pastors occasionally pray together, seldom come together with the full intent to mend this great divide. Yet, if by the Spirit we were to lay down our own needs for the sake of our one true mission, the segregated groups that now sit weakly (sic) in their pews, might truly become the formidable army of love that our cities await? With hearts as one, and our resources strategically directed, we could then better meet the many needs now simply relegated to politicians, they too with less than adequate funding. I find it interesting that the taxes levied by our politicians now exceed the tithe by some considerable margin. The tithe being God’s original plan, yet these levied revenues are still grossly insufficient for the needs of our citizenry.
Meanwhile sustainable change seldom occurs and the Body of Christ in this state of disunity, though often praying or demanding that religious prayers be prayed, have little opportunity to see the Great God of Heaven manifested; that is, beyond what individual churches or denominations accomplish through their relatively meager benevolence in foreign lands. Meanwhile the social and spiritual infrastructure of our own land perishes, while pulpits lash out at politicians, both equally participating in the forfeiture of our constitutional rights and their calling to cities.
God bring us back on mission…like a mighty army, worthy of the name of Christ!”
Initially Posted March 8,2010
If you desire to live differently, check out http://winstonsalemfirst.onthecity.org/plaza/loveoutloud