Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 (ESV)
This verse has stuck out to me lately as I have been spending a lot of time thinking and processing. I wrestle a lot with working for a church (a church which I love dearly) and being heavily invested in a small community (as I believe whole-heartedly I and any pastor should be). I wrestle with the current Americanization of the church – we drive in from where we live to where we feel like we fit. And I fully understand, I took a course in church history (and though a little rusty) understand there is a part of seeking a community where you can engage in worship in a body of believers. But at the end of the day – as I am processing what it looks like to create disciples (the one command we cannot escape and if we say its not for us, well, lets talk off-line) I am seeking to renew my mind. Because perhaps (more than likely) there are some areas the current church has gotten off track. Paul wrote his letters to realign and renew the churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi, etc. Maybe I need to not conform to what I knew “church” and following Jesus to be – but test and ask God to lead to what is good and perfect and acceptable – as we seek to create environments to disciple middle school students.
Maybe connecting middle schoolers to a church building or church name isn’t what it means to make disciples – but connecting them to an adult who walks with them regardless of whether they ever attend on a Sunday.
Again – I deeply love my church – but I deeply love the children of God – and my calling is not solely to “The Chapel in North Canton.” My calling is to love God first, my wife second, and then to make disciples. A lot of my time is spent making disciples of those who would say “I attend The Chapel in North Canton.” But I am also following faithfully to the lost in North Canton, OH. I have placed my family down the road from North Canton Middle School. I know the ins and outs of the community I live in and strive to know more and more – because I am moved to be in and among in the same way Jesus took on flesh and dwelt among us. With this – there is no way I can ever be in and among every school represented by students at The Chapel in North Canton. This used to discourage me – but I can only do what a man, broken and redeemed by Christ, can do. I can only be faithful with what God has placed in front of me – the doors He has opened. Some families won’t like it. And that is ok. Do I know live to please man or please God? (Galatians 1:10)
It does sadden me – I wish I could be as representative in every community as I am in North Canton – but it is not feasible. At one time I tried this. But part of renewing my mind made me realize it is not good for me to be everywhere – I get burnt out and spread thin. It is not acceptable – I lose focus, neglect my wife, and base every school and community on my shoulders, and it is not perfect – I give 2-3% to a few wholes instead of a greater percentage to a single whole. And I pray for those who will give that greater percentage to the whole. I know this hurts some families who drive to attend church and wish my focus could be given as much to their district and their homes – but the picture is greater. The kingdom increases when it is not on one shoulder but on many shoulders. I don’t make disciples alone – we make disciples together. I don’t shepherd middle schoolers alone – we shepherd middle schoolers together.
Maybe we need more equipping to be those people in your communities rather than writing a check to a few to do it.
Man – someone once told me to work yourself out of a job. And the reality is I should – as God has continued to shape me I have seen Brummy is really small. And the harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. Brummy needs to spend less time trying to do all the harvesting and more time equipping those to be sent into the harvest. I need to spend less time trying to somehow spend time with every single middle schooler and instead spend time with adults, parents, college students who will then focus on a few middle schoolers. But this goes both ways – it means trusting in God to move in the hearts and lives of adults who love Jesus and love investing in something they probably won’t see any results or fruit from. Who don’t just want to write a check but give up something they can’t get back (time) to invest in something which probably won’t produce for a long time (middle schoolers). Its a tough situation – but as we seek to follow Jesus in our day to day – maybe we just need to recalibrate an oil change. The whole vehicle isn’t messed up – we just need to fine tune it a bit.