Mid-Week Musings from Lead Pastor Todd Malone
We are taking steps toward normalcy. This Sunday we will return to one service. We will keep it at 11:00am for a little bit, but eventually move back to 10:30. We are also granting limited access to the facilities during the week. We already have groups that are coming to the church to meet outside or to use the gym. At this point, that is what we can open and keep clean. We will add more. If you want to use the church during the week, contact Kathy Silvertooth.
I know that many Small Groups and Life Groups are eager to get going. We will resume Life Groups as soon as possible. It is up to the Small Group to meet or not as they feel safe. Please, do not feel guilty about your decision to meet or not. Go before the Lord and do what you feel is best. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you. Be patient and understanding with one another. Remember last Sunday’s sermon: “There is no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.”
Next week, we will have an update on what is going on with Youth and Kids’ ministries.
I Am Going to Vent Now …
We are on the front lines of a battle between good and evil, between the holy and the ungodly. The battle, which is usually a quiet war, is raging for public display. The front lines are not at peaceful protests or riots. They are not in the moments when a good guy or bad guy meets a police officer. The front line is in my heart. And your heart. And the hearts of protestors, rioters, police officers, citizens, criminals, politicians, journalists, and the rest of us. Christian philosopher, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously reflected on his time in a Russian prison: “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.”
There are many factors that go into what we are seeing in our culture today. I am going to name one that I believe is central and overlooked: the church. So many churches in our country have given up on heart work. We ran after obtaining and protecting influence, accumulating attenders, building impressive facilities, and feeding the fragile egos of people in charge. If the battle of good and evil rages in the human heart, then the injustice, riots, racism, abuse, and every other social evil signal who is winning the battle. Sadly, churches came to believe the way to win the battle was to increase attendance and build programs. In the best-case scenario, the heart was secondary; usually it was not thought about as long as people kept coming and kept feeding the programs.
A disciple is someone who lives out the intention of becoming more like Jesus. Discipleship is turning the heart toward what is good and holy. It is, as we saw in Sunday’s passage (Romans 8:1-11), refocusing the mind on the things of the Spirit. Someone who is like Jesus will not be a racist. They will not ignore racism and injustice but will call it evil. A disciple will weep with the victims and weep for the victimizer. A disciple will cry out that there is a place to find the love that everyone is desperately searching for. And then they will prove it by being that love in action.
I, as a pastor, and FBC as a church, must never settle for telling you what you want to hear. FBC must never celebrate charting numbers more than changing lives with the gospel. We must never settle for anything less than seeing people become more like Jesus.
You, as a participant in the church, must never allow yourself just to be an attender and consumer of church. You must have the courage to allow spiritual leaders in your life to tell you what you do not want to hear. You must be willing to be challenged in your thinking, values, and behavior for the sake of your heart-transformation. You will not become a disciple with just you and your Bible and prayer time. No one ever has. You need to so fall in love with Jesus that you will allow His church to do its work in your life – if the church is willing. If it’s not willing, find another church.
At this point, I hear the very practical question of “What do I do?” because we are very practical people. We want to know what book to read, what class to take, what Bible study to start, or what ministry to join. Honestly, this is one of the curses of the programmatic, numbers-driven church culture. We reduce the Christian life to a To Do list. There is a lot to do, and it might include a book, a class, a Bible study, and a ministry. But the radical message that I have been trying to preach since I got here is this: those things do not matter, they will only help us feel good about ourselves and delude us into complacency IF we are not doing heart work. Discipleship requires an every day, all day long attention to our hearts. It involves constantly paying attention to our motives, our thinking, our values. It is an all day long daily struggle to bring them into submission before the Lord. Once we engage in that work, then the book, the class, the Bible study, and the ministry will take on a completely different role. We will be desperate for church, to be with other believers who are engaged in the same struggle. We will be desperate for worship that centers on God, not ourselves. We will be desperate for sermons that open our hearts in front of God’s Word and are not self-help TED talks.
Someone pointed out on Facebook that much of the unrest is occurring in places under the leadership of a certain political and economic philosophy. What I find more disturbing is that those same places have many of the world’s largest evangelical churches. I believe that if the highest priority of those churches was the heart-changing work of shaping people to live out the intention of becoming more like Jesus, the news would be different today. Those churches would be much smaller, no question. But the people would be different. What if the people in those churches were more committed to being like Christ than to a certain political position? What if the people in those churches were willing to abandon their comfort and pride for the sacrifices and humility of following Jesus?
What if that were us?