It seems that often there are three groups in any given local assembly. Those who want to go back to how things were “back then” in what they view as the glory days. The second group consists of those who are comfortable right where they are and don’t want to grow and move forward because it is simply too much work. They feel safe and secure and comfortable. Don’t rock the boat. And there is a third group, usually the smallest, who are not satisfied with what is and can envision what should be. They are willing to move from here to there regardless of the cost.
The first group who want what use to be are often totally out of touch with both where God is going and what God is currently doing. They want what use to be – the way it use to be. Never mind that this would make the church even more irrelevant than it is currently. And, of course, the past is never as good or as glorious as we now make it out to be. These people are not only out of touch with what God is doing but also with the people among whom they live. But, their focus is not their neighbours as Jesus intended. Their focus is simply what they want and their drive to take the local church back to the “good old days.”
Thom Rainer in his book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” states this as one of nine reasons churches die. They start a downward slide that glorifies the past when things were different and ignores the present and the future. I always want to ask those who are looking in the rearview mirror, “Well, how did that work out for you?” because we would not be in this situation now if that, back then, had been healthy and whole.
Those who want to maintain the status quo and not change are simply those who are not wanting to move into the future and become actively involved in what the Holy Spirit is currently doing. They do not have a vision of what the Church should look like and don’t want to know. They are having their needs met, they have friends in the church, and we may be struggling a bit with the budget, building, and number of bodies but we are survivors and we will simply hold down the fort until the Lord returns. It is a very self-centered, the church is about us, focus. And, is again, a sign of a deceased or rapidly dying church.
There is a third group who are wanting to be involved in what Jesus is building. After all, if we build the church then it is not the church Jesus is involved in. He states clearly that He is building His Church (Matthew 16:18). So, this group is seeking God’s plan for the local church and are willing to move forward into His future for them regardless of the cost and the effort involved. And there will be both. They are forward-looking and are willing to move from “here” to “there” and are in motion towards the future. In their hearts they are moving forward. In the natural realm of planning and every day functioning of church life they are moving forward. They are committed to His cause of “seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) and are willing to sacrifice what is to grasp and hold what is to come. This group is usually the smallest of the three in the life of the local church.
I understand each of these three group. I can even emphasize with each group. But, the key is to remember who’s church it really is. The Church is the Body of Christ and He is the Head of the Church. So, what He wants and is planning for His Church is more important that what we want – be it to revisit and live in the past or to remain where we are – safe, secure, and comfortable … even though complaining most days. If we are truly helping Him build His Church then we will most certainly be forward-looking and willing to pack up and move into His future for His Church no longer content with things as they are.
It is this third group I am willing to work with – no matter how small, unpopular, or misunderstood they may be. I want to invest my time, not just spend it or waste it.