Lemmings are those darling rodents that live in the Arctic Circle and look a bit like a hamster but have a strange suicidal habit. These little guys have a built-in sense of when their numbers are too numerous for their own good. When there are too many of them in a herd and their food supply is thinning out they instinctively will head for the hills – make that the cliffs. They tend to live at the edge of fjords so when they throw themselves off of tall embankments they hit the water going at a high-speed. If that event doesn’t do them in they drown in the water. Then, when they instinctively are aware that enough of them have bit the dust they cease the mass suicide and they go back to business as usual – grazing on grassy plants next to boulders nearby. Their behavior is so well known and documented the use of the word “lemming” is taken to mean suicidal actions.
The Church world doesn’t necessarily use the term “lemming behavior” on a regular basis but it certainly does practice this continually and when it comes to trends in outreach I become concerned. The problem in the church scene is when these suicides take place, there is no overall good that occurs – there is nothing redemptive that happens as a result of the herd throwing themselves off of the cliff into the raging waters below. At least with the little creatures there is group survival behind their instinctive behavior. When believers take dives like this, no good thing occurs.
Unfortunately we see these behaviors happening on a regular basis in the outreach sectors of our churches. When people do break past their fears it is often lemming like behaviors that are practiced that motivate the actions that are taken. We don’t need to live that way any longer. The way forward is to examine the bad habits we have been involved in. Then we can move outward, beyond those besetting patterns.
1. Inviting others to “my” church
This may seem counter intuitive. It is only natural that we would be excited about being a part of a life-giving church and therefore want to invite others to our “happening” church. Yes, that is all true to the nth degree. However, we can invite people to our churches for all the wrong reasons. We can live to invite people to our church so that we are legitimized in our choice of a value system. In us buying into a given church then in us getting LOTS of others to be a part of that same church we are proving that we have made a great and wise choice in our way of making decisions. When we seek to get people to come to our church because we want them to be a part of our likewise successful value system we are doing something God will not bless. We are participating in the very notion the Pharisees did when they attacked Jesus. They were the guys who had the right, the biblical answers for all the wrong reasons and as a result they were dead wrong in the end.
When we invite people to “our” church we to do outreach with utterly wrong motives. Thus we ruin the beautiful thing God is up to in seeing other come around to a relationship with Christ.
It’s good and natural to have personal pride in your church but we take it too far when we making them of our pride that we would grow our church. God is always about the business of growing our churches when we are aimed outwardly. He’s always about the business of seeing his family expand. It is a natural occurrence however and thus we don’t need to make gigantic focus over the notion of growing our local church by and large when the church is walking in a state of health. It is a normal that when we live in a healthy lifestyle with the life of the local church growth will occur. When growth doesn’t occur something is amiss at some point in the process of leadership. If we are not living a healthy lifestyle it is common that shenanigans are attempted in an effort to see artificial growth occur. I will have none of that. My desire is to see God grow his church very much like as eating healthy not going to any extreme measures to stay healthy. As we follow a healthy lifestyle we take in the healthy nutrients we need our amazing bodies tend to take care of themselves quite well.
Let’s keep our motives clean and the miracle of God will propel us forward in an ongoing way.
2. Doing outreach so my church will grow
As we love people our churches will certainly grow. As we become organized a bit and then are therefore able to love people in fairly large ways the growth of the local church will be well, remarkable. That is a locked down matter. I have explained that simple principle to many over the past number of years. Some get it and see results in their local church. Many don’t. So why are there so many who fail to see the “payoff”? They are doing something to get something in return. God is not one (One) to be treated like a Skinner Box as you may remember in psychology classes in college – “x” number of taps on the bar and a pellet drops in return. He is a rewarder of those of those who walk in faithfulness. We all do what we do in his kingdom out of 100% sheer faithfulness and love unto him with no regard to any potential reward. Besides, if people do show up in substantial numbers as you may be hoping you may wish you were never “blessed” in the first place. They are a lot of trouble and about the biggest headache you can imagine – not just the ones who show up but the ones already here who are trying to “help” out with the process. OMG! With friends like these who needs enemas!
We serve in order to further the kingdom, period, case closed.
I am here to tell you that as you serve your church will grow by leaps and bounds. It is inevitable so long as you have an essentially healthy base to begin with. So long as you are healthy as you begin with. This is not like designing rockets that will take over for the NASA program folks.
That is a guarantee that there will be growth in our churches when that powerful principle is put into play. There will be growth and expansion at various points in our local church almost no matter what we do given that we don’t take steps to annihilate our churches otherwise. Yet there is a need to do our outreach for the right reasons. We need to love others with no strings attached.
I’ve gotten to the point that I am available to love people only when it is convenient to me or that I am showing favor so that my love will be taken in the right direction that suits me. This is not the way are instructed by Scripture to love people. We are to love in a free-flowing, spontaneous way. Jesus lived his entire life and ministry of three years in an utterly spontaneous way. Yet so often in the church world would see that there is a lack of spontaneity behind the actions of people who are doing things for all the wrong reasons. When we cause to think through for why and wherefores behind our actions we are setting up our situation so that we will become a person of incapacity.
3. Doing outreach so I feel less guilty
That there is a sense of guilt that resides upon many of us that comes to outreach and evangelism. We have been told by a variety of leaders in our lives that we have a need to get out there among the people and to mix it up. We been told in a manner of speaking that God is counting on us to do his work yet we do not fill equipped nor do we feel called his task. The Scriptures say tell us otherwise. They read it is enjoyable and fulfilling to do the work of outreach and evangelism – “Where there Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” Paul reminds the church at Corinth. The very word evangelism is literally something that means it is the work of the angels in fact! Our role is to relax, to enjoy ourselves in the Lord and to cease completely from every notion that God is counting on us to do something that is beyond us. All such ideas are not inspired of God. God never calls us to perform rather he invites us to flow with him. His love is better than life as the scriptures remind us – he is ever present and it is before us in every task we get to participate in by his strength. Our joy is to grasp the hand of God and to get involved with what it is that he is invited us into. He calls us from here to there – from the end to this point where we stand now. That is a definition of success. We are allowed to be drawn into the simple notion of the success of God – him giving us the ideas needed and then the ideas required for us to walk things out.
4. Thinking competitively toward other churches in the community as we do outreach.
There is plenty of room at the table for all of us. We simply need to think in terms of abundance instead of shortages. Because of a general laziness on the part of many churches that have been incapable or unwilling to do outreach there has been a sense of false ownership over people and entire parts of the city as they see a understand who is in charge spiritually. God is the one in charge of all, not man. Thus when new churches come along there is a sense of a lack of welcoming to those new leaders and those new churches that are starting up. Instead of conveying, “Welcome! We are so glad you’re with us. Come along it lets take the city together” there is an attitude that drains what is skeptical and non-welcoming.