The dictionary defines the word essential as absolutely necessary; extremely important. During this current pandemic the government has found it necessary to decide which businesses it deems essential and which ones are not. Businesses have had to make the same call with their employees. Many of these decisions have been met with controversy and caused great pain. We have discovered it is very hard to come to a consensus in such an important matter.
Recently, during a time of prayer and meditation, I began to think about Kingdom essentials. I thought about today’s church and wondered how God saw it. I thought about many things that happen every day under the cover of religion and asked myself, “does God view these things to be important?” I thought about many of our church traditions (ministries) and began to consider if they still served a useful purpose and would the Father call them vital to His plan.
Quite frankly, this exercise was somewhat uncomfortable. I have spent my life serving God through His church. Because of my deep love for the church, I sometimes become very defensive and find it hard to be critical. But on this particular day, I felt the need to look deep and let the Lord speak to me.
Over the years it has been easy for many churches to be judgmental toward the world and even other churches, but the inward look was one they chose not to take. They have continued to stir in the ashes of a former revival and found solace in what God did there in a bygone day. As attendance decreases and community impact becomes almost non-existent, they continue to claim the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Something isn’t right.
It seems to me the time has come for the spotlight to turn toward us. What does God see when He looks at us? What should our focus be? What ensures we make the essential list? It’s really not that complicated but it is important. Maybe we could start by answering the following questions:
- Is Jesus being lifted up? The church has always been prone to identify with personalities. Even in the New Testament we read of groups in the church at Corinth who attached themselves to Apollos while others identified with Paul. The same occurs today. Some follow a preacher while others link themselves to a church/denomination. Whereas there is no problem having a favorite preacher or committing to a church, our first allegiance must be to Jesus. Intentional effort must be made by church leaders to ensure people are being pointed to Jesus. Any effort to elevate man over Jesus is nothing short of idolatry.
- Is fruit being produced? It is the Father’s plan for His church to bear fruit. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) Stagnant, stale, cold, lifeless…these can never be words associated with His church. Something must be happening – life must be happening! People must be growing and engaged in ministry. God is not concerned as we are with size or prominence; He is looking for fruit – fruit that remains to His glory.
- Is God blessing? Here is a simple rule of thumb for ministry – God blesses what He ordains. This does not mean there will not be trials and difficult seasons but, even in those times, you will see His hand and know He is with you. It’s not your church; it’s His. It’s not your ministry; it’s His. He will ensure His work accomplishes what it is intended to do.
The challenge for us to make sure we are involved in ministry He has, indeed, ordered. Instead of praying for God to bless your plan; ask God what plan He wants to bless. When we come to Him with a blank sheet of paper and allow Him to lead in our planning, He will take us to places of genuine victory and blessing. He will bless what He ordains.
- Would anyone notice if you went away? This is such an ugly thought but one that should be considered. Ministry must be more than programs and profit; it must be about people. Kingdom efforts are vertically connected to God and horizontally connected to people.
Too often churches operate in a spiritually theoretical world and struggle with the practical. We know our goal is save souls and prepare people for eternity not fully realizing the way to accomplish this must pass through a person’s reality. We want to get the Gospel into the hearts of people – we know that is their greatest need. But this will have a hard time happening if we don’t understand in order to get into someone’s heart we must first get into their world. It is this willingness to go where the people are that endears one to a ministry and to our Lord.
Over the past several months I’ve heard the word shift used a lot when discussing future ministry in the church. What I think I understood when this was mentioned was change was coming – that there would be different and new ways of doing ministry. But I am really thinking now it is much more than this. Deep in my heart I believe the time has come for the essential to step up and the non-essential to step aside. We have arrived at a crucial moment in time.
These are days when the heavens and the earth are being shaken. We may not want to think about it, but ministry is being affected by this shaking. Because of this, I reluctantly write I believe the coming days will see a significant number of local churches/ministries close. This saddens me greatly, but some simply will not survive the challenges of these times.
But it is with great excitement I write these times will see the greatest expansion of the Kingdom in the history of the world! The Holy Spirit is being poured out on those ministries who are opening themselves to Him. Those who are willing to dig deep into the wells of His Word will draw the water of His Spirit that will produce life in abundance! This is the day of miraculous multiplication! I really believe this!
The difference between those who do not survive and those who flourish is focusing on the elements God considers essential. Remember, God is not interested in protecting your posterity or promoting your personality, He is building His Kingdom! When we choose to fully partner with Him in this process, we overcome any and every obstacle in the way – we can’t lose!
I want to make the cut. I want to be essential to my Father. My prayer is you will join me in doing whatever we have to do for this to happen.