Every Day Judgment

When I was growing up, we were sure Jesus was coming back just any day. We poured over Revelation in our churches looking for signs of His return. We used calculations and sometimes even bizarre mathematic calculations to try to find out who might be the dreaded Antichrist. You’d be surprised how many people had names whose letters, when swapped out for numbers, added up to—you guessed it—666.

“You’d better be ready,” our preachers warned us, “Jesus is coming back to judge the world.” As you can imagine, that kind of anticipation exhausted our imaginations, and we went back to talking about how Jesus can help you live in the moment.

Then, I found out something. Jesus comes every day. His presence may not be announced with blaring trumpets or the splitting of the skies, but He comes just the same.

He may come and bring peace and reassurance during a tough moment of prayer.

He may come and invite me to join Him in loving a broken, confused, and lost friend.

He may come confronting me about a deeply held private sin. You know the ones. “They aren’t hurting anyone but me…” “No one knows this but me…” You know, those last private sins we hold onto…like the Oreos stuffed back in the cupboard behind everything else.

Jesus may want to talk about why I’m so slow being obedient in a particular area of my life.

I guess there are lots of reasons that would prompt Jesus to be near His children, not the least of which is we’re lonely a lot of the time. There’s something about our world that makes us feel all by ourselves even when we’re in a crowd.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned about Jesus’ coming:

  1. Learn to expect His presence. Jesus promised He wouldn’t leave us alone, and that means Jesus is close even when we can’t see Him. Why can’t we see Him? There are a lot of reasons. We get distracted. We get impatient and then give up. The biggest reason is that we haven’t trained our eyes to look for Him. Our eyes are really good at seeing what we tell them to see. Most of us have never told our eyes to look for Jesus.
  2. Learn not to be afraid of His presence. I know that sounds odd, but a lot of us are afraid of Jesus. We’re scared Jesus is going to punish us for our latest failure or condemn us for being the losers we are, but nothing could be further from the truth. His unfailing love drives Jesus to us. Even His judgment is spoken in mercy. Whenever He confronts us, it’s for our own good—for our own lives. Grace is the reason He’s coming.
  3. Learn to savor the moment. Most of us live too fast. We’re moving from this task to that one, from this meeting to that one, and when Jesus does show up, we don’t have any space or time for Him. Learn to slow down when Jesus is near. There’s a reason He’s close. Be sure you don’t miss it.

There are a hundred more things I could write, but you get the picture. Yes, one day the trumpet will sound, and skies will split open, and Christ will return in triumph. Until then, He comes quietly, but He comes. Be ready when He does.

You’re Not a Volunteer if You’re Called

If you ask any minister on any church staff to name the most frustrating part of the job, they’ll all say the same thing: “Working with volunteers.” The weekly routine of making sure people who agree to be somewhere are actually there and are doing what they promised they would do is the grind that frustrates most ministers to the point of looking for other ways to make a living.

If you talk with church members, they’re frustrated about the same thing. Church members are tired of being hounded by staff who need preschool workers, group leaders, teachers, ushers, and the list goes on and on. Church members are tired of being manipulated, guilt tripped, and emotionally bullied into jobs and places of service they aren’t gifted for and passionate about.

There has to be a better way—for everybody. I think there is.

Now, before I get too far down the road here, let’s be honest. Church is more like a family than a corporation. We don’t hire someone for everything that needs to be done in the church. We can’t. As a family, all of us have chores. All of us have tasks we may not enjoy, but we know we have to do for the good of the family. Sometimes we all pitch in to accomplish the work that’s before us.

Now, back to my original point.

Every church, like every person, is unique. Churches have unique callings and opportunities just like people. Christ, in His sovereignty, will bring people to a particular church who have the gifts and passions to accomplish the unique mission of that church. Church leadership should be aware of the gifts within their membership so they can better see how God is leading their church to engage in their mission.

Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him. We don’t initiate the conversation. Jesus comes to us. He calls us to Himself, and He calls us to the work. All of us have spiritual gifts to be used in the mission of the church. These gifts are ours to steward. We’re called to develop and employ our gifts for the greater good of Christ’s kingdom.

That means Christ created us and redeemed us to be somewhere and do something for Him, His church, and His kingdom. We don’t volunteer for anything. We obey. If we’re gifted to work with children, we don’t wait for the minister to call. We report for duty.

If we have the gift of teaching, we study, prepare, and present ourselves for service. We don’t wait to be found. We have a duty to engage. We were created with a purpose, and when we know that purpose, we are Spirit-empowered to accomplish that purpose.

When I first started in ministry, I got pretty good at getting people to “volunteer.” I would persuade, manipulate, guilt trip—whatever I had to do. I could get the positions filled.

But I’ve changed my mind. Too many people got burned out and were frustrated by being in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing.

Now, I talk to people about their gifts, and from there we try to find a place where those gifts can be used. People who use their gifts find the joy of being where Jesus wants them to be and doing what Jesus wants them to do. This brings an energy all its own.

I don’t think the church needs any more volunteers. I believe we need people who are called by Jesus to serve His church and kingdom. We need people who are obedient to that call.

That’s the church I want to pastor—a fellowship of the called, not simply a gathering of volunteers.