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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Faith or fear?

At our deacon meeting last night, I brought up "worst case" scenarios concerning our relocation project and our church.

In other words, I tried to "predict" some of the challenges that we might face in the future.

It's all part of being "good stewards" as leaders of our church family.

Yet, to a man, we all agreed that faith and the leadership of the Holy Spirit will overcome any challenges that we are going to face.

To a man, we believe in God.

To a man, we believe that God is going to see us through.

I would suggest to you that the difference between a church that fulfills God's calling is often the difference between faith and fear. It is the line between stepping out and holding back.

It is the line between control and empowerment. It is the line between taking action and thinking about it.

When fear gets into a system, it clogs up the works. Decisions come more slowly. Risks get managed. Everyone becomes cautious, calculating, and conservative. Instead of living tiptoe on the edge of expectation, people become hesitant.

Eventually we try to protect ourselves, and our passion is gradually restrained, starved, and weakened. We begin to feel less alive as a result.

In my opinion, the most fundamental issue holding back the any church is, “Are we truly willing to live by faith and risk it all?”

The only power on earth stronger than fear is faith.

We have to believe that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he’ll do. We cannot believe our eyes. Faith is the substance of things not seen.

Faith calls us to go and not to take much in the way of supplies. Faith calls us to put our lives at risk.

A man falls off a cliff but miraculously catches a branch on the way down. He begins yelling, “Is anyone up there?”

An answer comes back. “Yes.”

“Who are you?”

“I am God, and I am going to save you.”

“Wonderful. What should I do?”

“Let go of the branch.”

After a long pause, the man yells, “Is anyone else up there?”

Warren Bennis wrote a book, entitled "Organizing Genius", in which he looked at leaders who turned around impossible situations. They shared some common traits.

They had high energy. But they also had an almost delusional confidence. They had no success to protect. Their lack of experience was an asset. They did not know what was supposed to be impossible. They had a completely unrealistic view of what could be accomplished.

Spiritually, we need this. If age, experience, cynicism, and success have robbed us of our pioneering spirit, then we need to return to a vibrant, young faith.

The Bible says we can’t please God without it. It is also impossible to achieve our goals without it.

We desire to be led by the Holy Spirit. As we are lead by the Holy Spirit, the Lord will bring opportunities for which we cannot plan.

The Bible says in Proverbs 16:4,9, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends…In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”.

Our approach to planning at Stone Church is less like a cannonball fired at a fortress and more like a heat-seeking missile tracking a moving target. When the pillar of cloud and fire moves, we’ll move with it. We are continually looking for the genius of the Holy Spirit as we chart our course.

Isn't it true that when our plans – no matter how big – are always too small for God?

In this relocation process, we are attempting something so big that it is doomed to failure unless God is in it.

The question we want to ask is not, “Can we afford to do it?” but, “Is it a great thing for God?” We want to let go of the arrogance of knowing and move toward wonder and reverence. We want to move from the black-and-white zone of control toward the gray zone of greater openness.

A lot of planning in churches pushes the present into the future. The better and biblical approach to the future involves prayer and preparation, not prediction.

Long-range planning can be an attempt to turn life into a predictable science. Sometimes complicated plans can be a subconscious attempt to avoid doing, to avoid growing, to avoid faith.

At our church, we live with an emotional paradox. On one hand, we revel in the joys of accidental discovery. On the other hand, being human, we don’t want to feel out of control. Yet real control is the ability to respond automatically to altered and unpredictable circumstances.

As Scripture instructs us in Galatians 5:25, "we want to “keep in step with the Spirit”. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind – it blows unpredictably. It is critical that we continue to ask, “Where is God at work, and how can we join him in that?”

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