God Always Goes First
In the midst of congregational decline, it can be easy to slip into the, “What are we going to do about it?” mode of thinking. Of course, it is a good question and one that must be asked. But it is not really the first question to be asked. It is really a follow up question.
The first question in renewal is always, “What is God doing?” Jesus is clear, apart from what God does, we can do nothing. We can be busy and feel like we are doing something. We can convince ourselves that we are working hard, digging in deep, and fighting the good fight. But none of this is of lasting value if it is not connected to the first (and always the most important question), which is, “What is God doing?”
The second question in renewal is always built on the first. That’s why you have to ask the first question first – it really is the first question. The second question is, “In light of what God is working on, what should we do?” And this second question should be an almost instinctive, knee jerk reaction to the first. Once we see what God has done and is doing, our desire to respond is the natural desire of faith.
Nowhere is this pattern more obvious that in Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Peter tells what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus. People see that God is doing an amazing and new thing and they ask, “What then should we do?”
Peter tells them to “repent” and “be baptized.” In other words, commit to being different than you have been and be joined to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through whom God is working.
This pattern seems to be the basic pattern for every aspect of Christian life. God acts. People wonder how to respond. They are called to be transformed and be joined to the work of God.
What would it look like in the congregation where you lead or participate if the first question around every major decision and every brainstorming session was, “What is God doing?” And only after people were able to wrestle with and try to answer that question, could they then move on to, “In light of that, what should we do?”
“In light of that...” requires that we decided, as a community of the faithful what “that” the light is pointing to. Figuring out what God is up to is always the first step in vibrant and meaningful ministry. Without it, the church may still exist as an organization, but it ceases to be an intentional instrument of God’s mission in the world.
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