We have been right over the last few years to learn much about rest, leisure, family time, date nights, fun with friends in church life. We’ve been right to turn from a frenetic, 'church meetings every night & 3 times on a Sunday' works mentality - Out from a need to be seen to be working hard for God, & into a grace fuelled rhythm of life which releases us from legalistic busyness.
However, perhaps we are in danger of losing the strong New Testament exhortation to work hard as we partner with God. Is it just possible that we risk settling so snugly in the slippers of our 21st century lifestyles that we now think it’s just going to happen or someone else is going to do it?
Whatever culture (legalistic church or lazy postmodernism) we have unthinkingly soaked up – the scriptures encourage us to get up on our feet & work hard by the grace of God for the spread of the gospel. This is an exhortation to hard work like we have never known, but allied with the beautiful rest of grace deep in our souls.
This Sunday as we look at the second half of our Big Vision, we mustn’t be afraid to talk about hard work in these terms. Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves, to allow ourselves to be unsettled. Not to provoke a return to the rose tinted days of church busyness, but to release a new day of passionate, missional impetus in our generation.
We’re not going to lose the value of protecting our family time, but shouldn’t we be provoked by people like my friend Ioan Ianchis in Cluj, Romania who is now planting his 30th church since communism fell. Earlier this year I asked Ioan, ‘When do you rest?’ ‘Rest?’ he said, as though it was a bad word to be washed out of his mouth! ‘I’ll rest when I go to be with the Lord. In the meantime, I have work to do to make sure Romanians are changed by the gospel!’
Or maybe the bright lights of church history will stimulate us. Wesley who slept on his horse some days because of the unrelenting travelling & preaching schedule. Booth who was so troubled by lost men & women in Gateshead when he was still a Methodist Minister, that he walked away from his comfortable church of a thousand in order to spend himself for the tens of thousands who were outside the walls & didn’t want to hear his message.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to lurch into some boot camp mentality. But isn’t it time to wake up & redress an imbalance as we begin to live urgently again in our day? Isn’t it time to at least ask ourselves whether we are in danger of putting our own comfort ahead of the great commission? So much ministry today is directed inward at self awareness & healing. Much of this is so valuable. But there is a greater commission than my needs being met. It’s time to be propelled from introspection & self protection, back out into a broken world with force.