How We Squeeze The Life Out Of Our Message
My cable line is too long. It stretches over 600 feet to the telephone pole making my signal go bonkers. Sometimes my signal is strong. Sometimes it’s weak. Sometimes it’s clear. Sometimes it’s fuzzy. Just like our message in children’s ministry.
After we plan VBS, decorate our rooms, recruit the workers, install a secure check-in system, set the budget and then organize the whole thing, we might want to take a no-nonsense look at the clarity of our message.
The question is this: Did Jesus DO ENOUGH to put us in right relationship with God through our faith in Him? Yes or no? Simple question if you keep it simple.
If you say “no” then be clear on what else God requires. Say it upfront and out loud. Don’t pull the churchy bait and switch by telling people Jesus saves them by grace and then load them up with your obligations.
Tell them that God now requires them to regularly attend services, repent of every sin, give ten percent, share their faith, go on mission trips, read the Bible through, pray daily, serve in the church, stop all known sin, support the poor and love/forgive everybody. Just be honest. Don’t tell them Jesus purchased salvation and offers it as a free gift if you don’t believe it.
Again. Did Jesus do enough to put us in right relationship with God through our faith in Him?
If you say “yes” then be clear that they are now free in Christ. Talk about what Jesus did for us. Make that your emphasis. Cultivate the message. Allow them to marinate in God’s love, grace and acceptance.
Allow grace to do its work in them. Allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit. Help them understand that Jesus will live out His life through them to do whatever He desires.
The early church had nothing but a story and God’s Spirit. That’s all. They knew God’s Son came to earth, lived a perfect life, died for their sins on a cross and then resurrected to give them His righteousness.
They had no Bible, no Bible studies and no study Bible. They relied on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. It was all about what God did for them. God was their generous, loving Father.
Times have changed. Now it’s all about what we do for God.
God has now become our employer. He is the farm manager and He needs us to do His chores. We made the same mistake both sons made in the parable of the prodigal son. They related to their dad as the farm owner/manager, not their father. (See Luke 15.)
The Galatian churches started this mess. They took their focus off what Jesus did for them on the cross. Check out how The Message Bible renders this.
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you NO LONGER HAVE THE CRUCIFIED JESUS IN CLEAR FOCUS in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by WORKING YOUR HEADS OFF TO PLEASE GOD? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up! (Galatians 3:1-4 The Message)
I love the way the Pidgin Bible (actual Hawaiian translation aided by Wycliffe Bible Translators) translates Galatians 3:1. This is the term used to describe people who once focused on the cross but who have now moved on.
“Yoa head all jam up?”
Great question! So you think you can add to the Son of God laying His life down for you by being crucified? You don’t think that was enough? Yoa head all jam up?
After 2000 years, we church people have muddied the waters. What was once good news about what God has done for us has unraveled into religious obligations centering around our local congregations.
Go to most church websites. It’s all about what WE do. We are way too impressed with our own ministries.
It’s all about us. Our mission. Our vision. Our purpose. Our goals. Our strategy. Our budget. Our history. Our programs. Our meetings. Our plans. Our conferences. Our conventions. Our retreats. Our camps. Our banquets. Our service times. Our staff. Our virtues. Our values. Our principles. Our discipleship. Our book store. Our coffee shop.
We tell them about OUR ministries long before they hear a clear message about what Jesus did for them once and for all. Our nursery ministry. Our children’s ministry. Our youth ministry. Our student ministry. Our family ministry. Our men’s ministry. Our women’s ministry.
And we have our groups. Life groups. Women’s groups. Men’s groups. Student groups. Music groups. Drama groups. Dance groups. Prayer groups. Helps groups. Singles groups. Single mom’s groups. Young married groups. Business men’s groups. Senior groups. Widows groups. Divorce recovery groups. Sports groups. Craft groups. Golfing groups. Hunting groups. Motorcycle groups. Addiction recovery groups. And my favorite: Ladies’ bunko groups.
None of these things are wrong until they crowd out the message of the cross and make it more about us than about Jesus.
Then they squeeze the life out of our message.
It might be that the good news of the Gospel is far better, far bigger, far more empowering and far more exciting than anything we do. I think people should know that.