The Marriage of Faithfulness and Effectiveness

The Marriage of Faithfulness and Effectiveness

Have you ever heard this line? “We are not called to be effective, we are called to be faithful.”

I disagree.

Faithfulness to God and effectiveness for the Kingdom cannot be separated; and that is a truth that we should find terrifying.

In the parable of the minas in Luke 19, the faithfulness of the servants is judged on the basis of their effectiveness.

“…(verse 20) Another came saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in a bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest? Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away…”

I used to think that faithfulness meant attending church services, tithing and following the rules/behaving morally. Now, I think that if that is the extent of my definition of faithfulness and therefore, my actions, that I am the “worthless slave.”

The problem with that view of faithfulness is that we serve a God who wants to acquire. He’s out for more.

The worthless slave actually had some correct beliefs about his master. Unfortunately, his beliefs lead him to fearing his master in such a way that he thought that the best thing to do with what the master had given him was to keep it safe. He took no risks with his mina and happily returned it in pristine condition.

I wonder how many churches are so focused on keeping the church “pure,” that they render themselves ineffective? The passed-down traditions are kept. The convictions of the faithful are respected. The focus is certainly on the holiness of God. After all, God will bring the people in to the church as long as he is honored. Right?

It seems to me that Jesus is making the point that the master (who seems to be Jesus himself in this parable) is honored by people taking what they have and investing it — always a seemingly risky endeavor — with the goal of acquiring more for the master while he is away. He does not seem to be impressed in the least, and is made quite angry, by the fact that the mina he had given had been returned to him safe-and-sound.

Does this not scare you? It scares me a lot. If it doesn’t scare you, then I hope it is because you are an outwardly focused, effective Christian who is part of an outwardly focused people-reaching evangelistic, relevant church.  But if you are comfortable thinking that your attendance and tithing and not sinning makes you “faithful,” then you need to be worried.

“Klint, surely you aren’t saying that those dying churches who have God-fearing members who are ‘fighting the good fight’ aren’t being faithful. That’s awfully judgmental, especially coming from someone so young.” 

We should not be nearly as concerned with being faithful to the church as we are concerned with  being faithful to the purpose of the church. Meeting 1-3 times a week (or every single day of the week for that matter) and does not equal being faithful. Being moral people does not equal being faithful. Investing in growing the kingdom, does; and, in the most scary part of all, results are expected.

Most Baptist churches are either stagnant or dying, but I bet every single congregation has been reassured at one point or another that it is being faithful. Faithful to what? Of course we need to be faithful to the message of what the gospel is. But that is not enough because part of the gospel message is that it is for all people and we must be the kind of people who will actually go and love all people. I’m afraid that faithfulness to preferences is trumping faithfulness to kingdom-advancing.

I have never been to a church that was outwardly focused, mission-oriented and willing to set preferences aside (i.e. sacrificial) for the sake of reaching people that wasn’t growing, much less dying. Maybe that’s just my experience, but if the early New Testament church grew in a period of time where believers were literally dragged away and killed, then I really don’t think we can blame our culture or the world out there if we are failing to advance Kingdom.

The time has come to not only put preferences aside, but to put excuses aside and give ourselves an honest evaluation. Read Luke 19 for yourself and judge what I am saying. Which servant are you?

Many Church Goers Do Not Worship God

For many months now, God has been stirring my heart, revealing Himself and asking me to truly worship Him — at church.  What a concept.

The truth is, I’ve been a worshiper for years.  Being a worshiper simply means you recognize who God is.  You meditate on His attributes; His great holiness, faithfulness and love (to name my top three) and as you do, you begin to see yourself appropriately by comparison.  Worship is extremely humbling and extremely satisfying.  When you find yourself lost in pure worship to God, all else, including thoughts of self, melts away and He is all there is.  Fulfillment comes because you were created for this very thing.

The other truth is, for years I mostly worshiped outside of my church gatherings.  (EEHEM)  Alone in my car, praise in the shower, at Christian concerts or conferences, FREEDOM to worship seemed much easier to find.  But, put me in a Sunday service at church and forget about it.  Too distracted and too well trained.

God has clearly shown me how messed up my worship was and has also opened my eyes to the reality that I’m far from alone.

There are countless articles and opinions out there on “what’s wrong with the church.”  Well, I’ll throw my hat in the ring with this statement: Churches are busy dragging people into serving a God they do not worship. 

Church leaders across the land beg for people to help.  Please volunteer.  Sign-up to serve.  Please GIVE.  “The fields are white for harvest, but the laborers are few!”  Why?  It’s exhausting and difficult to serve and give to a God you don’t worship.  You may serve others and you may serve your church, but your service won’t last because people disappoint and “burn out” kicks in.  And thus, the cycle of dragging people in and out of service in the church continues.

Every time I find examples of service and giving in scripture it comes after an encounter with God where He has been magnified and He has been worshiped.  I believe if a church is not bearing fruit that looks a lot like people wanting to serve and people freely giving, the issue is worship.  Always worship.

I realize my claim that most church goers are not worshiping God is a rather judgmental statement.  How can I know whether or not someone is worshiping God?  Well, I can’t.  However, I think I can know when someone is not.  You’re not worshiping God when you are focused on self.  You’re not worshiping God when you are distracted by what other people think of you.  You’re not worshiping God when you are angry and harboring bitterness against someone else.  You’re not worshiping God when you have that sour, mean look on your face.  Sorry, but you’re not.

It’s easy to recognize fake worship because I’ve been guilty of it myself.

Week after week thousands of Christians enter church buildings and attend WORSHIP services where worship never happens.  Sure, there is music and prayer and even preaching, but the majority of attendees half-heartedly sing — if they sing at all — give little to no thought to the words and worse, little to no thought to God.  They won’t pick up a Bible and look at the preaching text.  And they whine about the sermon.  Why are we going to church?!

When I wrote the Bible study, King Hezekiah, I was awestruck by the scene found in 2 Chronicles chapter 29 — a picture of worship.  The people had been restored to a right relationship with God, their hearts were turned toward Him and they worshiped.  There were instruments (plural), singers (thousands) and LOUD music for DAYS.  They fell on their faces in humility before God and truly worshiped Him.  There was no discussion about who was leading, what style would please the most ears, what the song list was or how many songs should be played.  Those things don’t matter when the throne of God Almighty is the focus.  It was a scene of uninhibited joy and praise before the Lord.  Their focus was on a powerful and holy God who had rescued them from their sin when He could have crushed them. They were full of gratitude for His mercy and grace.  After they worshiped, they brought in an abundance of gifts to the Lord, so much so that King Hezekiah had to have more storehouses built to hold what the people gave.  They gave sacrificially.  They wanted to.  Out of hearts of worship came hearts of service and giving.  It was the same in the New Testament churches.

So, what’s our problem?  Here are three points to consider:

  • 1. We don’t worship because we don’t understand who God is. The church needs to be discipled.  We need to learn the scriptures and we need to learn them alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.  God has revealed Himself to us through His word and through His creation.
  • 2. We don’t worship because we don’t accept that we were made for worship. Hello?  Nothing else on this planet satisfies and fulfills the human soul but worship to the creator God. However, we spend the majority of our time believing we were made for something or someone else.
  • 3. And the most frustrating of all — is that often we (church attendees) don’t worship because we don’t think we are supposed to.  It’s not appropriate in our churches to be filled with the Spirit, to weep, to raise our hands, to shout, to speak praise or to sing at the top of our lungs.  (Perhaps even more so if you are female.)  We are far too dignified.  Do we see our leaders (pastors and deacons and elders and teachers) worshiping God with uninhibited praise and joy before the Lord?  Um, no.  We see them stuck in tradition or so afraid to let go and be free themselves, we don’t know what to do.  We are afraid to embrace worship.  We quench the Spirit for the sake of everyone else’s comfort and we keep worship locked down inside us where we’ve been trained to believe it belongs.  Ask around.  You’ll learn this is true.

King Hezekiah lead his people in worship.  He was an example to his people.  He wasn’t worried about what people thought about the music or the timing.  He cared for his people, but mostly He was busy passionately loving His God.  And the king’s worship was contagious.

I love my church.  I love the church.  It’s just time to let go.  It’s time to find freedom in Christ. It’s time to get serious about being a disciples who make disciples and about doing the one thing we were created for!

I’m asking God to begin with me.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.       John 4:23