At Avenue, we're in the midst of our Stewardship Campaign with a series titled: "Living Under the Blessing Tree." After two weeks, the feedback has been really positive as we stress generosity in all we do. The messages for the last two weeks have been spot on. I had the privilege of preaching during the first week which focused on Paul giving thanks for the church at Philippi at the beginning of the book of Philippians. This week, the message came from Mark 2:1-12. This is the passage of the four friends who dig through the roof of a home to lower their paralytic friend down to see Jesus. Of course, when he gets lower, Jesus first forgives the paralytic of his sins, which causes a stir among the scribes. So, Jesus continues to completely heal the man. Everyone was amazed.
As I listened to the message, I considered some of the implications of the text for the Church. Our pastor encouraged us that each committee, team, meeting, group within the church should regularly ask this questions:
"How will what we do tonight in this meeting/group/study/worship service/etc. help someone get close to Jesus?"
That's really the million dollar question for us. By asking this question, it helps us to refine our focus as we gather for council/leadership meetings. It refines what we do in youth ministry or our music ministries. This question holds us accountable to who and what God has called us to be. Just as the four friends worked to get the paralytic man to Jesus, how will what we do in our churches help others get to Jesus?
Now, some might say that everything we do in the Church is intended to bring people to Jesus. That might be the hope, but sometimes we do it without any intentionality or purpose. If our meeting has a printed agenda- the purpose of that meeting should be typed at the top, taking into consideration about how the outcome of the meeting will help bring someone closer to Jesus.
There is a warning to the church here in Mark 2:1-12 as well. It is heart warming to see these four friends overcome obstacles to get the paralytic man to Jesus....but who were the obstacles? They were the scribes, religious leaders, and others gathered to hear the message of Jesus. In essence, they were the Church! The gathering of people had become so focus on what was happening inside the house (Jesus teaching), that they were not aware of the needs right around them.
I read once from Erwin McManus that as a church, we have become content to look in the mirror when we should be looking out the window. We (the church) can run into the trap of being so inwardly focused that we miss out on the needs of our community just outside our doors. If the crowd that had gathered in Mark 2:1-12 had seen the four friends and the paralytic man, they could have made a path to Jesus and helped bring someone closer to Jesus.
Are we, as a Church, so inwardly focused that we are keeping others from getting to Jesus? Do we take time to stop and consider how our staff meeting, leadership team meeting, etc. are designed to bring people closer to Jesus? Are we intentional about it? My prayer is that as Christians, church leaders, and teachers that we would do all we can to help people experience the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ.