Thursday, January 17, 2008

Plans and Projects vs. Habits

As Americans we love the idea of plans and projects. They appeal to us - detail step by step plans to whatever goal it is you have. This is what the entire self-help industry is built upon. This even impacts the Church. If we want to "grow" as a congregation, we feel we need a plan, a program, something new and unique and different that will spur forth this new whatever it is that we want. After all, if you build it, they will come. That's the Gospel according to Field of Dreams.

Thing is - that's not how God works, or how God works for us. We will use the language of "God's plan of salvation" - but what does that plan involve? Is it like one of our plans - where there are stages and steps (dare I say. . . dispensations)? No. God will send the Messiah. If you live before the Messiah - pray, hear the Word, be circumcised and offer the sacrifices. If you live after the Messiah - receive forgiveness, pray, hear and study the Word.

These are habits. They are things that are repetitive - the same things, the same things that we need, given to us again and again to shape our lives, to make us grow. That is what our focus should be on - not on temporary plans du jour, but on the life long habits that we should be cultivating.

"But Pastor, that's about us as individuals - but what about the Church as a whole, our congregation?" Think on the parable of the sower. What does the Sower do. He casts seed. Always. Everywhere. Over and over. Habitually. He doesn't make a soil study, he doesn't plan out how to parcel the seed - he simply sows the seed.

No plan will grow the Church. "But what about these churches that have these plans and they grow?" Um, look at the town around them - it's growing. Um, if Lahoma suddenly got 200 more people to move in, some of them would end up here, simple as pie. If your town is growing, if your neigbhorhood is expanding, demographics will give you more folks. That's the luck of the draw.

But in terms of growth - in terms of more people coming to this Church, more of our friends and neighbors - no plan is going to do it - good habits. Speak the Word to your neighbors habitually. Be an example with your own habits. Show that the worship of God is part of your life, and invite them to make it part of their own. Sow the seed, habitually and repetitively - and let the Holy Spirit do His Work when and where it pleases Him. Just don't let your bad habits get in the way.


Christopher D. Hall said...

Churches that grow are in towns that grow...sounds like a cop out to me. Of course, it tends to be true, nearly 100% of the time. There are and have been exceptions, of course.

There is a place for the so-called sanctified common sense. There is definitely a place for faithfulness, for proclaiming the Gospel clearly and everywhere you can, but you's really not our Church, our Gospel, our growth or not. It's His, and we all have a problem with that on some level, being sinners and all.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

True, it is a cop out - but it's also something that needs to be remembered when you have people wondering why we haven't doubled in size since I've been here like ______ church has.

I find that a lot of times we set hopes and expectations for growth based on the high statistical outliers.

I also find that all too often we think of growth as numbers - and really, growth may have very little at all to do with numbers - actual growth in a God pleasing way.

Terri H said...

i;m finding in my church, raise your dreams and plans to God so that he may bless you and steer you in His direction.

I have an example of this from the senior pastor of my own church. On a trip to Hawaii, he was able to envision a retreat center for Christians. As he discussed details with God and people, he was given the realization that this was to be the mission of someone else and not his family.

Everything always works out in the end when we rely on Him.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"the mission of someone else". That ends up being the key to way so often people can be disappointed with the lack of "growth" in their congregation. It can be based off of envy and desire - wouldn't it be great if we were like them, or if we had ______. It's not based on what is good and God pleasing for us here. It's based on our desire, our conception of what we would like to be rather than on whom God has called us to be.

Always have to ask, why do you want something. If its for the wrong reasons, it shouldn't be done. If it's something that is good, it still doesn't mean that you are the one to do it. David didn't build the temple - and that's okay.