The Long View

2 Corinthians 6:11–12 (NKJV)
O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.  

In this post, I would like to open up and share the inner workings of my heart and mind and soul. You see before I returned to Emmanuel, I had an epiphany regarding what we had historically considered our church. I had seen ministries that were so mean and divisive seeming to live out Galatians 5’s list of the works of the flesh. The majority of these ministries I had observed were Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches. These churches were always traditional, King James Only, and carried extrabiblical standards.  They were the epitome of arrogance, looking with condemnation at the world and other ministries around them. The Lord had begun a work in my heart toward grace that would take the better part of nearly a decade to accomplish the change of heart needed to lead Emmanuel to the next phase of her ministry.

When I came to be the lead pastor of Emmanuel, what many didn’t understand, and what I am still learning, is just how much we all needed revival. Many of us had lost the hope of our salvation. We were caught up in legalism and the fear and approval of men more than a fear and approval of God.

Upon returning to Emmanuel, the Lord laid on my heart what I have come to see and refer to as The Long View. We were at one place, and we needed to be somewhere else, and it was going to take time to get us there. This is not unusual when a new pastor arrives at a church. Five things the Lord pressed into my heart. Five objectives. Wrapped up in these things were others that would help flesh them out and breathe life into them. The Long View is that we will become a refuge of Grace and Truth, and that we will be known for it. Even the enemies of the gospel will have to stop and admit that we are different, that we care, and that we are genuine. Here are the five things…

  • Grace and Love – we needed to discover it and live it.
  • Love the Children – we needed to love them like Jesus and provide top notch ministry to them.
  • Intentional Discipleship – we needed to become intentional and relational in our method of discipleship.
  • Make much of Jesus – we needed to elevate Him and give Him first place in our church and in our lives. We needed to worship the Son and love Him and live out His words and His life here on earth.
  • Bible Truth – on my journey out of legalism and judgmentalism (and I say journey because I am still on one and haven’t arrived), the Book of Books became my guide and sole authority. It may sound cliché but when it comes down to it, if you aren’t at the top of the pyramid of leadership, you ultimately follow some man or woman. As I abandoned long held standards and even some minor beliefs (though in cultural fundamentalism they are major), my adherence to this supernatural book kept me going.

That’s it. Those five things were and still are the driving force behind my ministry. Evangelism, worship style, changing standards, they all fall into line when we get these few things right.

Now, as I began to lead Emmanuel, I also began to investigate in earnest this Independent Fundamental Baptist movement to which I had belonged (loosely thanks in great measure to Pastor Clow) for over 20 years. What I found only served to confirm for me that we were not where we should be. Sadly however, even though we were only loosely aligned with these types of ministries, we were adversely affected by them. Whether through reading their books, or by associations with certain churches and pastors that had an undue and bad influence on our own leadership, we had lost our first love. Jesus. We had lost the vision for our church, the church of the can and the do. The church that cares, that left condemnation to the other churches. We became known as controlling and legalistic, and judgmental and isolationist.

the_road_not_taken

So in came The Long View. Why do I call this The Long View? Because it is shift of the mind of a church that is 34 years old. Have you ever tried to teach an old dog new tricks? Ever heard the expression “push a boulder uphill”? These are apt descriptors for the last nearly five years. I’m pulling back the curtain here for you. We were short on grace, our love for children was real but poorly expressed and discipleship needed to become intentional. Jesus needed to come front and center, His words and His actions needed to guide our own. The Bible needed to become more understandable and accessible to more people and it needed to be more clearly taught and closely adhered to. I was so very convicted that we needed to be careful in our preaching and teaching that we stayed true to the Book. These were things the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. These are the things that will lead to evangelism, every member becoming a minister to those around them. These five things will lead to health and will see us become indispensable and compelling to our community. In some ways those around us may hate us, but they will not be able to deny our good works and the Father that has led us to do them.

The Long View. This means that step by step, month by month we will see changes in the heart of the church. It doesn’t happen overnight. I firmly believe that one of the greatest problems with churches today is that they have left their first love. The early church didn’t have a whole lot of programming and special days (these may be good tools, and I think we should use them) but what they had turned the world upside down… what was it? They made much of Jesus. They believed and lived by His words. They believed He had risen from the dead and this life was just temporary. They came together to serve one another and worship Christ. They came together because they needed to, they needed the support and encouragement of each other. Church was more than an activity or an event. It was a way of life, it was following THE WAY. THE TRUTH. THE LIFE. This is The Long View. A view that sees our church becoming an eternal influence on our culture one by one.