This may be a bad picture to show to folks in Minnesota and North Dakota in the bleak mid winter but…….I had the chance to see an article by Dr. Lou Jander. I met him years ago at a workshop in Arizona. I think he liked the same kind of pipe tobacco I do. Before all you anti tobacco freaks go crazy my interest is this article that he wrote in
Dr. J’s Ponderings – Vol. 3 – No. 01 January 08, 2013
Sorry I don’t have the link – but here it is.
Last summer I was at a swimming pool at a KOA camp. There were lots of people in the pool and it was unusually noisy. Upon further observation, I noticed something unusual. All the noise was coming from the shallow end of the pool. The only sound coming from the deep end was the sound of experienced swimmers swimming with discipline and confidence. There was no yelling, no crying, no complaining, no evidence of fear or frustration. After a lifetime of ministry, I have concluded that all the noise comes from the shallow end of the pool, from those who haven’t learned to swim with confidence or are not secure enough to venture into the deep water.
Churches reflect that clearly. The noise comes from the shallow end, not the deep end. Look at current statistics. Church attendance is down. Excitement is down. We have gone into show business, but if you dig deep into those statistics, you don’t find discipleship being up, nor do you find godliness up. We find people who are attending but few people who are swimming in the deep end. There is not much Christlikeness or commitment. It’s easy to draw a crowd. The people of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have taught us how to draw a crowd. But it’s tough to build a congregation. One pastor said recently with tongue in cheek, “Our people are deeply committed in every area except three: lifestyle, mindset, and values. Other than that, they are deeply committed to the Gospel.”
You have to understand, I grew up in a large town (Houston, Texas when the population of the greater metroplex was all of 740,000; now it’s over 4 million). One of the things that was really great was when the circus came to town. A group of us would go, and we’d hear the pitch man say, “Step right up! Pay your money, knock out the balloons with the darts, and you’ll win the wonderful prizes!” No one ever knocked them out or won the prize. Another man would entice us to take the baseball and knock down the bottles. The next man would say, “Pay your money and come in to see the tallest person, the shortest person, the fattest person, see all the freaks.” There is even some of that in our churches in general today. “Step right up and you will see….”
Over these years we have tried all types of “things” to get people into our churches.” We’ve changed the music, we changed the style, we changed the times, we’ve changed the structure, and we’ve even changed how we go about planting and doing church. I’ve read how churches try to “attract” new people.
•”Come to our church. Our preacher doesn’t wear a tie. Our preacher wears golf shirts and jogging shoes.”
•”Come to our church! We wear shorts and sandals.”
•”We have snare drums and screens.”
•”We’re into political reform.”
•”We have a religious superstar preaching today.”
Everyone is out front, just like the carnival barkers were, pushing their style, their religious product, but when we get inside we find, just like the carnival, that no one knocks out the balloons or knocks down the bottles. No one wins the prize. No lives are changed. The church of the big idea, the church of the big action, and the church of the big deal somehow leave us empty. Something is missing and it’s been missing for a number of years as the statistics still seem to be sliding (some in large amounts). And another bandwagon comes along and we hop on it looking for the next big answer to the dilemma.
Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 3:10-13, 12:12-20.
That is the issue Paul was addressing in this letter. Churches that are built only on ideas or style are doomed to die. Paul said, and I paraphrase, “I gave you a good foundation, Jesus Christ. You build on Jesus Christ. And if you build with gold and silver or straw, it will fade. You must build on Jesus Christ.” Jesus earlier said in Matthew 16, “On this rock (the confession of Peter) I will build my church.” During His last week, He said to His disciples, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” In other words, stay connected to Me, and you will bear fruit. If you get severed from Me, you won’t bear fruit.
I have realized in recent years that all we do to establish our niche in the church market may be a cover for an empty heart, a shallow commitment, and a secular mindset. Let’s start the other way. Let’s build on a foundation, a strong commitment to Jesus Christ and see what happens.
Unless a church’s foundation is Jesus Christ, there is no substance, no power. It is sound and fury. It is chaff. If Jesus Christ is the foundation, if He walks the halls, sits in the pews, and is in our classes, if He interprets the Bibles and sings our hymns, preaches our sermons, then we will know and do our mission effectively. If He is not there, no gimmick will make it happen.
The Scripture I read makes it clear that the church is Christ’s body on earth. The church needs a passionate commitment to Jesus, not a passionate commitment to political, ideological, or stylistic ideas. When we rediscover Jesus Christ, our worship will be revitalized. We’ll not be concerned about style as much as we’ll be excited about content. We must rediscover the beauty, the majesty, and the power of a strong commitment to Jesus Christ. When that happens, we will not get bent out of shape about golf shirts and jogging shoes. The central question will be, “Did we meet Jesus?” not “Was my opinion or style supported today?” To say that Jesus Christ is the root and foundation, the cornerstone, the vine, is not a way of evading issues. This is calling the church to understand that we are Jesus’ people. We are members of His body, and the church in all its power and strength needs to rediscover Jesus. It means understanding what it means to be justified for sanctification.
The Doonesbury cartoon is so serious that it often appears on the editorial pages of our newspapers. In one cartoon, Mike, the central character, was looking for a church, so he interviewed the pastor of the Little Church at Walden. He asked, “How did you get your church started?” The pastor replied, “I took a survey in the community, and they all wanted aerobics, so we started an aerobics class. Then they said they all wanted basket weaving, so we started basket weaving. Then they wanted jogging, and we started jogging. And the next thing we knew, we had a church. It’s getting so big now that we almost have a whole denomination.” In the last frame, Mike, who knows nothing about the Gospel, scratches his head and said, “So that’s how religion is spread.”
No, it’s spread because Jesus Christ changes lives. Anything else will die. It may have its day, but it will die. When we rediscover Jesus Christ, our belief will be strengthened and focused. When the church rediscovers Jesus Christ, the people will come for the show, stay to grow, and live in the glow. The only noise we will hear in a church will be people swimming from the shallow end to the deep end of the pool because they feel safe in deep water. We move from the significant meaning in our lives of justification to a life of sanctification. Justification is the right relationship with God through and completely by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Sanctification is the effect of that relationship of Christ as we live it out in our lives. Being justified through Jesus Christ means that I can’t help but live and do in service to Him…He loved me so much and I, being filled with the Spirit, will live that relationship in all that I do and say. The sanctified life flows from the justified life. And that sanctified life takes on significance in my daily walk with Him. Knowing that I have been justified, I can’t help but say with Peter and John, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) Not only can I speak about what I have seen and heard, I am driven to action that speaks His love for me…action that says, “God so loved me, a sinner, and I want to serve you because of Him.”
So, swim into the deep end! As you grow, I pray that you will discover ways to glow in your everyday living.