Operation Renovation

Acts, Galatians, Romans 12, James, Sermon on the Mount, the Gospels

Operation Renovation…  As I think of the title of my blog I realize that it incorporates many things.

It is the theme of our church for this year.  It has led us to renovate our property to be more suitable for the type of ministry the Lord has called me to.  We are changing our foyer into a gathering place, a lobby where people can sit and talk, where teaching and fellowship can happen.  It is the welcome center to the world when they come into our building.  When the renovation is finished it will be a warm welcome to people coming out of a cold New England world.  It’s more than that… it is a change in the personality of our church, it’s an emphasis on our need to be open and inviting to the lost… it reflects the heart of Jesus and now our heart as well.  Then there is the playground.  It’s a state of the art, nearly $20,000 project.  The people of our church financed this project through a birthday gift to Jesus.  This renovation to our property also represents a change of direction for our ministry here at Emmanuel.  We didn’t put a playground in because every other church has one.  We did it so that children would know that Jesus loves them.  We did it to reflect the attitude of our Savior who just seems to me was a magnet to children.  As we move forward in the coming year we are also adding AWANA to lead the children of our church and community into a personal relationship with Jesus.

More than new ministries and property renovations has been the renovation of the heart of the people of Emmanuel.  The subtitle to the theme is “removing man’s way and rebuilding God’s way”.  The changes to property and some of the new ministries that we have started (such as Reformers Unanimous) over the last two years have been a reflection of this change.  There is laughter and joy flowing through the building on any given service day.  There is learning happening and discipleship.  There is freedom being sought and found and testimonies given.  This is the heart of Operation Renovation; the change of priorities, the change of direction from external to internal.  This change has come at a price.  There are some things that no longer look pretty.  There are some things that are being left undone.  There are some that no longer come to church dressed for the runway… actually that is a good thing… a Biblical thing…  There are some that have taken advantage of their new found freedom and have lost the faithfulness they used to display.  There are some that have become immodest.  Yes change is messy.  Change from externals requires patience and grace and true heart to heart teaching.  The fact of the matter is that when some of the standards were lifted it revealed the truth; that the hearts were never changed; not by the outward pressure to conform.  Now the real work begins… to love, to teach, to preach, to disciple and yes to admonish and rebuke as necessary.  However in all of this we learn that outward pressure doesn’t really change the inward man.  That is accomplished by the Spirit and the Word.  I have yet to meet a True Believer that is happy in his sin.  I have yet to meet a True Believer that is happy in his rebellion; oh there may be some, but by and large they have left the church to pursue their path to the pigpen.  The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is my strength.  What happens in a church when the standards and rules have replaced the Ruler?  The joy is diminished year by year until there are simply the rules, an empty outward expression or religion.  What we began two years ago was a ministry of relationship over rules; the ministry of running with Jesus instead of away from Him.

AND YET… The title of this blog was really born from a heartache that I feel for the Fundamental Independent Baptist movement.  Galatians is a book that our Fundamental Baptist Churches ought to look at today.  We may not be preaching a different Gospel, but in many churches we have come close… When I was saved the thing that attracted me to Jesus was His grace and ability to do for me what I could not do for myself.  I knew that I couldn’t be good enough or work hard enough to earn His favor.  But now in our churches many have added burdens on folks that are heavy to bear, burdens that the Lord hasn’t added in Scripture;  burdens that define what a “good” Christian is… or to be honest… what a really “saved” Christian is…  really just add works to the grace of God.  It isn’t said outright… it doesn’t need to be, but instead of exalting what Jesus has done many exalt in what their churches look like.  These burdens are largely preferences based on a man or on men’s opinions.  Men such as Jack Hyles and Bob Jones and if we aren’t careful Steve Currington, Paul Kingsbury and Paul Chapel (three men that I greatly admire) have been elevated to godlike status.  Pastors have sought to have their churches look a certain way, dress a certain way, sound a certain way because of what men have said instead of focusing on what Christ has said…  This was what was happening in Galatia.  The Jewish leaders were concerned with how they looked to others.  They wanted to have their followers meet a certain standard so that they could brag on that fact…

Galatians 6:11-18(KJV) 11Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.  12 As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.  13For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.  14But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.  15For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.  16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.  17From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.  18Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Mark 7 would also be a good passage for pastors to study.  I believe tradition has a place of honor but it doesn’t have a place of authority.  Many in our movement honor the past 50 years in a greater way than the last 2000 years.  We elevate preferences and tradition to doctrinal status and then separate from those with opposing views.  Instead of unity in Christ there is cannibalism on both sides of many issues.  There are some doctrinally sound churches that have a modern flair but entertain the same outward pressure to conform to their brand of Christianity.

So what is the message?  What is the point?  My point is that we need to renew our passion for Jesus.  We need to review the Sermon on the Mount.  We need to teach our people the importance of developing that relationship with Christ and let HIM change them.  We need to give the Spirit the time and the opportunity to work in people’s lives.  We need to be available to be used by Him by acting like Him.  Last year I did a series of messages on what it would look like to live out the words of Christ.  I call it Red Letter Christianity.  Let me tell you that this is far more challenging and rewarding than wearing a suit or skirt or what type of music you use.  It is in the trenches loving the unlovable, it is giving sacrificially but loving to do it, it is investing your life in someone else’s, it is being meek and kind and holy and wise and patient and loving and humorous and it is Christ.  This may be a revolution to your heart, but I dare you to try it.  Get alone with Jesus and review your life, your ministry and your walk with God.  Pastor do you look like Jesus to your church; do you treat her as the Bride of Christ?  Does she look like a New Testament church or a 50 year old Baptist church?  When I stand before Jesus and give an account for the church He has allowed me to pastor, I want to hear “well done” and not “how could you treat my bride like that”.

Operation Renovation… it may not be easy but it’s worth it.  In my younger years I was in kitchen remodeling.  I was almost always the last one on the job.  Many homeowners would take a look at their new solid surface countertops, then look around at their new cherry cabinets and beautiful hardwood floors and then the memory of the demo and the wrong parts ordered and the frustration of doing dishes in the tub would begin to pale.  It was worth it.  And so is this.


One Response to “Operation Renovation”

  1. […] Posted on Jul 2, 2011 in Uncategorized | Operation Renovation […]

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