ChurchETHOS

The Next Step

Posted in church planting by Nathan Creitz on December 17, 2005

I once coined a phrase that probably won’t ever make it in to any quote books, but it has meant a lot to me and I have used it in sermons before. The phrase is: “The next step is only a step away.” As you can see, at first glance, this doesn’t seem to be in the same universe as something CS Lewis might say, for example. Maybe it will take on a little more significance by the end of this post.

In my previous post, entitled: Are You A Public Christian? Please Say No. I talked about the first step that we need to take to be influential Christians is to become devoted followers of Christ. It’s amazing that the pastor of the largest church in America never talks about the “cost of discipleship”. The large majority of so-called Christians in America live lethargic, uninspired lives. Most Christians have bought the lie that being a Christian is all about me. It’s about what I should obtain from God because I deserve it. They are seeking their “best life now,” if you will. Since Christianity has focused so much on what I should get from God, we are of no use to those on the outside. For the general public, Christians have nothing to offer them. Christianity is seen as irrelevant, archaic, and pointless. That’s why the first step has to be about changing myself. If you never live a life that impacts culture, then something needs to change. This week, both TJ and I received hate mail from two different sources. My first response was, “All right! We must be doing something right.” My goal is not to disconnect from culture and make people mad at me, but sometimes when you live Truth and proclaim Truth, it is offensive. If all I ever preached about had to do with how smiling is medically proven to bring about joy in my life and claiming my best life now like Pastor Osteen does every Sunday, then everyone would just love me so much and life would be grand. We have to be committed followers of Christ no matter how hard it is or how much society hates our narrow-mindedness.

This brings us to the next step. What follows when committed Christians begin to stand up and impact their immediate culture for the cause of Christ? The next step towards transforming the culture for Christ is to transform our churches. The first step was personal transformation, now we have to discover what it means to bring transformation in our churches. I could water down the whole counsel of the Lord and maybe have one of the largest churches in America, too. But maybe a truly transformed church won’t be a mega-church. Maybe it will never be bigger than a few hundred people because there are constantly new, like-minded churches being planted.

In transforming ourselves, it is important to live personally devoted lives to Christ and it’s just as important that as a church we dedicate ourselves to the basic things that God requires of us. In Acts 2 we find that the early church “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” As individuals they were devoted to authentic community. The next step is that we bring that personal dedication to our community of faith. They were individually devoted to koinonia, or fellowship, and this brought about a very powerful community of believers that was visible to the surrounding culture. When a few individuals in the church sell out to God’s will, the next step is only a step away.

Church leaders are responsible for this next step from personal to church transformation. It goes without saying that church leaders should be personally devoted to following Christ. As leaders, God has given us to the church. A church leader should help members to discover their place in the body of Christ. They should help members use their gifts and abilities. Leaders exist to serve the church. We are to equip, rebuke, exhort. We are to train the saints in the work of ministry. We are to build up the body of Christ. We are to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son. We are to speak the truth in love. We are to promote the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. A church that isn’t increasing in these things will never be influential in the community around the church. When church leaders live transformed personal lives dedicated to God and are actively encouraging others to do the same, the next step towards transforming the world for Christ is only a step away.

Each individual in the church is in a different place spiritually. There are some who have grasped the first step of personal devotion for themselves. There are other Christians in the church who come to church, not for what they can supply to the body of Christ, but for what they can receive. That is understandable and welcomed, for a season. They should be moved towards maturity in their faith. Then there are those who are curious about faith and about Jesus. They are coming for answers. Again, this is encouraged with the hopes that, for them, they will take the next step towards becoming a transformed follower of Christ. As effective leaders, we need to be sensitive to where an individual is on the sliding scale of faith and help them move a little bit closer to transformation.

I like to say that, as a church, we exist to encourage people to find, build and restore relationships with God and with others. There are some who have not found God, there are others that are in the process of building their relationship with God, and finally, there are those who have fallen away for a time and need restoration in their life. The church needs to be about discipling believers towards maturity and unbelievers towards faith. A leader who only invests in other leaders is neglecting an important segment of the church. It’s vital that a church leader invests in those who will, in turn, invest in others. However, it is just as important to never forget what it’s like to lead someone to Christ, or help a new believer mature in their faith. I invest in others who will eventually be leaders because they will help support the work of the church in the community, but I invest in those who may never be leaders so that I can be in touch with what my congregation is wrestling with.

A church that is going to transform their community and their world for Christ is one that is actively instilling the first step in people’s lives. God has given leaders to the church who will equip the church towards maturity. We should be concerned with the lack of influence the church has on society, but we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that is ahead of us. There is a lot to be done before the church can be influential in today’s society. There are thousands of churches that could fall off the face of the earth and no one would ever notice that they were gone. No one would care. However, there are churches that are filled with first step Christians and are becoming second step churches. It can happen in any church and with any Christian. I mean, after all, the next step is only a step away.

Boston (42° 21′ , -71° 7′)

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3 Responses

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  1. jeff said, on December 19, 2005 at 7.54 pm

    Seems like most Christians have the steps in this order:
    1) transform the world
    2) transform the church
    3) transform yourself.

    This order leads to hypocrisy, the number one complaint the church has to deal with.

    I think you hit it right. Get yourself going, help your church, allow both those things to transform the culture.

  2. nathan said, on December 20, 2005 at 12.31 am

    Hey, you’ve already got step three! It’s amazing what happens when we operate under God’s priorities. Of course, my point in writing all of this is not to literally go step by step. Some of it happens in step-like fashion and sometimes it is simultaneous. The important thing is that we don’t go after the speck in a brother’s eye until we take care of the log in our own. But that doesn’t mean we never help a brother with their speck.

    Thanks for the comment Jeff.

  3. joe kennedy said, on December 20, 2005 at 1.16 am

    Hey Nathan, thanks for commenting over at my blog. I’m sure you don’t remember meeting me once at UM back in the day, and I know we have a lot of mutual friends, Matt Blair for one. Anyway I just thought I’d drop a line and say thanks for commenting and let me know if I can help you guys up in Boston somehow.


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