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In my last post I began discussing The Present Future by Reggie McNeal. McNeal suggests that we are frequently asking the wrong questions to the situations we’re facing. He first discusses those questions and then proposes his own “Tough Question.” His first tough question: “How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?”

He asserts, “In North America the invitation to become a Christian has become largely an invitation to convert to the church.”

“The North American church is suffering from severe mission amnesia. It has forgotten why it exists. The church was created to be the people of God to join him in his redemptive mission in the world. The church was never intended to exist for itself. It was and is the chosen instrument of God to expand his kingdom.”

Has the church lost its sense of mission? If so, how can we recover the mission? Are we converting people to the church or to Christ?

“The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money, and energy of previous generations froma previous world order. The plug will be pulled either whent he money runs out (80 percent of money given to congregations come from people aged fifty-five and older) or when the remaining three-fourths of a generation who are institutional loyalists die off or both.” Thus begins Reggie McNeal’s book, The Present Future.

McNeal goes on to observe, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.”

What is your view of the church? Is this true of our church? How might we need to adapt to more fully meet people’s spiritual needs?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:4-9

Do others think of you as a joyful person? Is your joy evident to all? Would you want others to put your life into practice in their lives?

“Like walking, life is a combination of steps. Like dancing, life is a combination of speeded-up steps: the static and the dynamic, finding one’s center of gravity and venturing out of it by leaning forward and, just before falling, leaning back and returning to the center where the step begins all over again. All inward motion (preparation) and no outward expression (party) is a good way to burn out. One can easily discipline oneself out of existence. All preparation and not practice is an equally good way to burn out. One can just as easily party structures out of existence. Certain dance steps call us to be editing our selves and our structures; other dance steps call us to be enjoying our selves and our structures. The language of preparation is philosophy. The language of partying is poetry. The philosopher prepares the way—it is called criticism. The poet parties—it is called celebration.”
Leonard Sweet, Learn to Dance the Soul Salsa

Do you find yourself walking too often on one road, either preparation or party? Do you need more formality in your life, or do you need more fun?

“Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 51:11

Breathe deeply today as if all sorrow and sighing have gone away. Sing to God with gladness and joy.

“Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” 2 Samuel 6:14

Have you ever danced before the Lord with all your might? What caused you to celebrate with such fervor?

“In the beginning, it was nine o’clock, so God had to go to work. He filled out a requisition to separate light from darkness. He considered making stars to beautify the night, and planets to fill the skies, but thought it sounded like too much work; and besides, thought God, ‘That’s not my job.’ So he decided to knock off early and call it a day. And he looked at what he had done and he said, ‘It’ll have to do.’
On the second day God separated the waters from the dry land. And he made all the dry land. And he made all the dry land flat, plain, and functional, so that—behold—the whole earth looked like Idaho. He thought about making mountains and valleys and glaciers and jungles and forests, but he decided it wouldn’t be worth the effort. And God looked at what he had done that day and said, ‘It’ll have to do.’
And God made a pigeon to fly in the air, and a carp to swim in the waters, and a cat to creep upon dry ground. And God thought about making millions of other species of all sizes and shapes and colors, but he couldn’t drum up any enthusiasm for any other animals—in fact, he wasn’t too crazy about the cat. Besides, it was almost time for the Late Show. So God looked at all he had done, and God said, ‘It’ll have to do.’
And at the end of the week, God was seriously burned out. So he breathed a big sigh of relief and said, ‘Thank Me, it’s Friday.’”
John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted

God showed great enthusiasm for his Creation. How do you return that enthusiasm?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one of you for whatever good you do, whether you are slave or free.” Ephesians 2:10, 6:7-8

Think back over the last week and the people you served. If these people were the Lord, would you be pleased with the way you had served, or would you feel that you could have done more?

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Thank Jesus for his servant heart.

“The Pony Express was a private express company that carried mail by an organized relay of horseback riders. The eastern end was St. Joseph, Missouri, and the western terminal was in Sacramento, California. The cost of sending a letter by Pony Express was $2.50 an ounce. If the weather and horses held out and the Indians held off, that letter would complete the entire two-thousand-mile journey in a speedy ten days, as did the report of Lincoln’s Inaugural Address.
It may surprise you that the Pony Express was only in operation from April 3, 1860, until November 18, 1861—just seventeen months. When the telegraph line was completed between two cities, the service was no longer needed.
Being a rider for the Pony Express was a tough job. You were expected to ride seventy-five to one hundred miles a day, changing horses every fifteen to twenty-five miles. Other than the mail, the only baggage you carried contained a few provisions, including a kit of flour, cornmeal, and bacon. In case of danger, you also had a medical pack of turpentine, borax, and cream of tartar. In order to travel light and to increase speed of mobility during Indian attacks, the men always road in shirtsleeves, even during the fierce winter weather.
How would you recruit volunteers for this hazardous job? An 1860 San Francisco newspaper printed this ad for the Pony Express: “WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk daily. Orphans preferred.”
Those were the honest facts of the service required, but the Pony Express never had a shortage of riders.
We need to be honest with the facts about the Discipline of serving God. Like the Pony Express, serving God is not a job for the casually interested. It’s costly service. He asks for your life. He asks for service to Him to become a priority, not a pastime. He doesn’t want servants who will give Him the leftovers of their life’s commitments.”
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Are you willing to serve God, no matter the cost? Write a “job description” for Christians.