When my husband, Damian, and I entered into church planting, we were too excited to consider any negative emotions or possible hardship. We were the kind of people who wanted to see every sickness and sin defeated but failed to see and trust God’s bigger story in the midst of suffering. With less than 1% of the Japanese population declaring themselves to be Christian, we praised God for each conversion and loved watching God move in people’s hearts. Unsupported by an organization, we established various businesses as a way of providing for our staff and ourselves. Each month we witnessed hundreds of unbelievers passing through our building and socializing with members of our small Christian community. We presumed our plan was working well until the day our business partner quit, taking with him a large number of clients and a portion of our income.
Many believers speak catchphrases without knowing how the gospel applies to the everyday stuff of life. They have been given the truths of Jesus as the answer for going to heaven, but have little knowledge of how Jesus gives a better answer for what they do in this life. God wants us to be able to translate the world around us and the world inside of us through the lens of the gospel.
In recent years I have returned again and again to these words. I was one of those ‘enthusiastic Christians’ that Dan McCartney refers to. The kind of person who passionately wanted to see every sickness and sin defeated in this life, but who failed to see God’s sovereignty in his own suffering. When I lost control of my environment, or something interrupted even the godliest of plans, it was easier to blame myself or the devil. This left me either fighting external forces or burdened with an internal sense of failure.
Life can sometimes feel like you’re living in the middle of a novel. In the middle of the story you don’t really understand the plot, the characters’ motivations, or how the story will end. Only in the final chapter do all the details make sense. I have a friend who reads the last chapter of a book first. Once she knows the ending she can sit back, relax, and enjoy the book no matter how crazy the plot becomes. God invites us to read the final chapter of the bible, so we can see how it all works out in the end.
We are naturally ‘glory-empty’ people. We might not call it glory, but we have a hole in our heart that we are desperately trying to fill with significance, honour, importance, and self-worth. We shine a spotlight on our achievements; ‘Look at what I’ve done.’ We look at the number of friends we have on Facebook and say to ourselves ‘Look how liked I am’. This works fine as long as we are popular and part of the crowd. But what happens when our popularity is threatened?
It is healthy for churches to define their roles, mission and expectations. Churches should not be afraid to bridge preventable gaps by clearly communicating their expectations of one another. By doing this it will go some way towards easing disappointment and equipping both pastors and congregations to run the race together. But we must avoid situations where we rest more on our own accomplishments, than on the accomplishments of Jesus Christ.