Family is gone, dishes are done, leftovers in the fridge, back to work, it’s Easter Monday. Most people professing to be believers in Jesus Christ were in church on Resurrection Sunday. This begs the question; are all these church attenders really believers? If Christ would have called the church home, how many would have remained in the church building? Would there be churches that would be missing no one? Would there be churches where everyone was gone? I would submit to you that according to Jesus’ own words, churches will be full of people after Jesus calls His own to eternal life.
Matthew 7:14 NASB
For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Phone calls, text messages, emails, every church has its preferred method of follow up. While the motivation may be different, church leaders strategize for the influx of attenders. Each developing strategies to get occasional attenders to return. Roll out the red carpet, put your friendliest people in place to interact, tickle their ears with the Jesus loves you message (He does). It’s like, “come join our club, you’ll love it here.” Few churches, strategize on delivering the whole Gospel message. To these churches, it matters not if you return to their particular fellowship, but that you receive the true Gospel which begins a realization that all are sinners. Jesus is quoted in the Synoptic Gospels that He did not come to call the righteous but that He came to call sinners to repentance. What kind of service would it be if instead of warm friendly people greeters we slap a name tag on each person entering in, each tag with the same name, “sinner”? Then when Monday rolls around a collective sigh of relief for many in church leadership. The extra efforts put in on Sunday morning; were they worth it?
Christ centered churches believe that God is calling all men to repentance, that the main reason He has yet to return is there are more people He wants to save and that some of those people only come to church on special occasions and He intends to use the church to reach them. For some churches, this is the measuring stick for evaluating success and rightly so. Let’s say we have 10 people become believers on Resurrection Sunday: awesome, high fives, angels rejoicing. God has used this church to change someone’s eternal destiny; blessings will follow. However, is this it? Save’em and leave’em?
Matthew 29:18a NASB
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.
The mission of the church does not end with “Amen” on Sunday, it changes to making disciples (pupils) of new and old converts alike. How do we help them transform into what God is calling them to be? Sadly though, many pull their religion out of a box twice a year, some to please a nagging family member, others because church attendance, while rapidly diminishing, remains in the culture of Americana. Don’t get me wrong, people generally get a good feeling about themselves being in church on Easter Sunday. The praise, the worship, the message leaves most people feeling a spiritual high. For some it’s a realization of victory over death. For others, the music was good, the message was good, the coffee was hot, the people were friendly, it was a good place to start the Easter holiday now bring on the Easter dinner.
How can one truly sing and worship of victory if there has been no conviction, no confession, no repentance of sin? What real victory do you have if you’ve never participated in the struggle against and a realization of the punishment to follow? While there were many great battles in the history of our nation, being a former Marine, I look back to the battle at Iwo Jima, Marines and Corpsmen being shot at in the landing craft, hitting the black sandy beaches so steep one could barely climb, being targeted from the lofty crags of Mount Sirubachi, then finally achieving the victory, forever symbolized by the flag raising on Mount Sirubachi. One of the greatest, most celebrated victories in Marine Corps history was the costliest, where nearly one in three Marines and Corpsmen that left the ships offshore were killed in action. These sports victories and military victories, while hard fought, are only temporary.
We learned this week that God sometimes allows difficulties and pain and sorrow into our lives, that sometimes He allows our circumstances to be so impossible that only He can fix them. This is what Jesus allowed in the lives of those closest to His friend Lazarus. Lazarus’ family and friends wanted him healed while he was sick, then when he died, they assumed it was too late. But Jesus, knowing their lack of true belief that He was indeed sent from God, waited until four days after Lazarus’ death. According to Martha, Lazarus was dead so long she thought it necessary to tell Jesus that “by this time he stinketh” (KJV). Jesus was growing their faith.
In the days following Easter, let us identify, come along side and be a help to those God intends to grow. Many of these were with us last Sunday. Let’s help them to keep the good dishes and silverware out, for everyday use, Let’s help them keep Jesus off the shelf or out of the box organized “religion” to a genuine, intimate, and personal relationship with the one who gave His best, His all for us.