We all know people who are busy, busy, busy with the work of their church. They are committed, loyal, and tithers!
They can be counted on.
They are faithful.
They are also tired, maxed out.
Most churches who have a group of good people like these offer a broad range of services to its members. They will likely have children's church, nursery, youth ministry, men's ministry, ladies' ministry, worship team, ushers, greeters, altar workers, hospitality and other creative ways to care for the regular attendees. Some have evening or weekend Bible Schools to train more workers. They do a wonderful job of meeting their members' needs. These activities and services provide a "ministry" and involvement for every member of the church. The key word is INVOLVEMENT.
While the goal is certainly commendable, the result may be less than desirable. Some people get so involved they end up going from stretched-out to maxed-out to burn-out.
It feels good to come away from the hustle and bustle of the week and get into the Lord's presence with the saints we know and love. It's comforting and strengthening to be in a caring, nurturing atmosphere. It's here we get our "strokes" to keep us charged up and moving forward.
The Word of God tells us, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:17). The challenge for the Church is to define "be ye separate." Does "come out from among them" imply a monastic or convent church life?
WHAT IS A MONASTERY?
According to Webster's Dictionary, a monastery is "the residence of a group of people, especially monks, retired from the world and living according to religious vows."
The characteristics of monasteries are as follows:
They are dedicated to the service and worship of God.
Its participants are dedicated to God.
They are isolated from society, sometimes physically and always spiritually. Minimal contact with the society around them.
Significant social contact is limited to those within their group.
All strength and energy are devoted to maintaining and serving the group and God.
(a). They often grow their own food.
(b). They prepare and serve their own food without outside input.
(c). They usually have rather bland and uninteresting diets that don't appeal to the general public.
(d). They do a good job of meeting each other's needs and the basic needs of the physical facility.
They put major emphasis on the dress and appearance of participants.
They give much attention to what can be seen in relation to service to God, including attendance to all religious services, prayers, recitations, etc.
They also stress participants' relationship to God, providing many services and times of prayer, reflection, and self-inspection.
They gain great personal satisfaction in feeling they are doing the right thing in their service to God. They are satisfied with their lives.
They feel, or at least demonstrate, no responsibility to impact the community where they are located or the communities near them.
Though passersby may know of its existence, it does not relate in any meaningful way to their daily lives.
If these characteristics describe your church, you may have a type of monastery or convent.
When Jesus instructed us to "go out into the highways and hedges, and compel [them] to come in," (Luke 14:23), He did not intend for us to hide within the church.
LET'S ASK OURSELVES A FEW MORE QUESTIONS:
Do the people in your community know what your church is all about? If asked, "How would the people who live within a mile of your church describe your church?"
Would they even know it was there?
Is your church active in community affairs, or is it isolated and separate?
Is the major focus of energy, resources, time, personnel, etc., the care of the local body?
Does your church feel responsible and demonstrate its responsibility for the local community's spiritual and moral welfare?
EXPOSE THE COMMUNITY TO YOUR CHURCH.
Jesus described His Church as "the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14).
Jesus also spoke of the absolute necessity of the Church staying relevant: "You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matthew 5:13).
This implies that if the Church has lost its ability to impact and change its community, it is of little value. He goes on to describe what happens to it: "Trodden under foot of men." That indicates that the community sees no value in it.Now is not the time to retreat into the fort and sing the old song, "Hold the fort, for I am coming; Jesus signals still. Wave the answer back to heaven; by Thy grace we will."
THE PAST GIVES US A CAUTION.
Church history demonstrates the cyclical nature of church life. After every great revival, the Lord has to prepare and use new wine-skins to contain the new wine. The old wine-skins became stiff and set in their ways, unable to hold new wine. If the old wine-skin had remained flexible and willing to adapt to change, it could have handled an influx of new wine.
CHECK YOUR FOCUS.
It's harvest time!
That implies outward focus.
What is your church focusing on?
When the grain is ripe, the farmers work night and day to get the harvest in. They know they have a limited window of time to get the most out of their efforts. They are aware of the times, seasons, weather, and other variables that affect the harvest.
If we are inwardly focused, we may miss our opportunity for great growth and blessing.
Let's focus on the harvest.
We have the tools.
We have the power.
The harvest is ripe.
Let's go and get it.
We are the Church -- not the monastery -- of Jesus Christ.