Now, Later, Never, or…

3 05 2006

Now, Later, Never, or…

I Chronicles 17:4 (NIV)  “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.

Patriarchs and Prophets, p.712.004
      David knew that it would be an honor to his name and would bring glory to his government to perform the work that he had purposed in his heart to do, but he was ready to submit his will to the will of God. The grateful resignation thus manifested is rarely seen, even among Christians. How often do those who have passed the strength of manhood cling to the hope of accomplishing some great work upon which their hearts are set, but which they are unfitted to perform! God’s providence may speak to them, as did His prophet to David, declaring that the work which they so much desire is not committed to them. It is theirs to prepare the way for another to accomplish it. But instead of gratefully submitting to the divine direction, many fall back as if slighted and rejected, feeling that if they cannot do the one thing which they desire to do, they will do nothing. Many cling with desperate energy to responsibilities which they are incapable of bearing, and vainly endeavor to accomplish a work for which they are insufficient, while that which they might do, lies neglected. And because of this lack of co-operation on their part the greater work is hindered or frustrated.

Matthew 20:16 (NIV)  “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As I was reading this story it really impressed me on several levels.  First, because of David’s past, he was not allowed to build the permanent temple for God.  Second, David is so gracious and says, “OK, if that’s what you want Lord, I’m cool with that.”  And third, there are correlations with my work, calling, and purpose.

Skipping ahead in the story, the reason God would not allow David to build the temple is because he has shed much blood.  David accepts that and continues to do the right thing.

So, in the last several months in working with my coach, I’ve been wrestling with the concept of church growth and Common Ground.  I feel compelled to raise up a large church of strength and purpose.  I believe Common Ground is supposed to be significant and evangelistic – to always be growing and planting new congregations throughout the Springs.  Yet, at this point, we are a comfortable family church – a pastoral size congregation where relationships matter more than excellence and awesome programs.

This is where my disconnect comes in.  I struggle between “the now and the not yet.”  What I see currently is not what I want.  I think that if we start operating above our current size, we will get there.  I am afraid of inertia.  What if people become comfortable in our present size?  How will we ever budge them if they become an immovable object?  What happens when we get up around the 200-250 range in attendance, if the evangelistic/growth mentality isn’t there, it may be too hard to move them.

But God has been convicting me to relax.  My coach says, “Who’s responsibility is it to grow the church?”  God’s, obviously, but I want to keep the vision of growth always before the people.  I never want to become complacent.

Then there is the question, why am I so intent on growth?  Is it ego?  Is it a responsibility to my employers?  Is it vision?  Is it based on deep-seated insecurities?  What is the reason?  Is it biblical (Matthew 28)?  

That’s why this story of David really strikes me.  He gets it in his head/heart to build the Lord a temple.

1 Chronicles 17:1 (NIV) After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.”

But God says, “Nope, not you, not now.”

As I was sharing this with my brother yesterday I felt that he may not understand my situation or what the Lord is asking of me.  And I felt chastised by his comments.  This is part of my struggle really.  Not only do I put pressure on myself to succeed, but I feel it from my employer – we have about a year an a half to become a self-supporting church.  Also, because The Adventure is so successful, I feel pressure to match those results.  In addition, my brother has done well and he is always pushing others to grow.  Then, of course, there is my own ego.  What if I stumble, what if I fall?

But The Adventure and Common Ground have different situations and different strengths.  We shouldn’t really be comparing ourselves to others, we should just be who God has called us to be.  They started with a large core, we started with nothing.  Roger has years of pastoral experience, I have a few.  But disregarding all of that, God may be calling us to different purposes.

David wasn’t allowed to build the temple because of his past.  God may be telling me that my role is to build the foundation, someone else may come along later to finish the work.  My past is quite shady and defiled.  Maybe great success would ensnare me and bring about the destruction of my own soul and the church?  Maybe it would be best for me to focus on discipleship and the DNA of this church?  Maybe, pastoring a family-size church is the best for me and my family?  Maybe this is about me and not the lost souls in the Springs?

This statement: “How often do those who have passed the strength of manhood cling to the hope of accomplishing some great work upon which their hearts are set, but which they are unfitted to perform!”  really grabbed me.  I am driven to succeed, but maybe I’m unfit to do this work.

Also this:  “Many cling with desperate energy to responsibilities which they are incapable of bearing, and vainly endeavor to accomplish a work for which they are insufficient, while that which they might do, lies neglected.”  stood out.  Desperate energy – that describes me well.  But is it vanity?  Quite possibly.

While working at Life Flight several years ago I was talking to one of the pilots.  We were an elite bunch made up of top notch Vietnam era veteran pilots, highly trained and skilled critical care flight nurses, and the best of the best paramedics.  When I look at our group photo, I am proud to say I worked with those people.  But this particular pilot mentioned how good the flight nurses were, how attractive and intelligent they were, and how driven they were.  Then he asked, “Do you think they are overcompensating for their insecurities?”

Those of us who are motivated to helping professions are often seeking to find help for our own dysfunctions.  In addition, those who are driven to success are often overcompensating for some shortcoming in our own lives.  By achieving success, we are propped up.  By helping others we feel valuable.

I think I have overcome many of these insecurities, but I need to make absolutely sure that I’m not pushing the church due to my own vain ego and dysfunctional needs.

I don’t have to be on the same track as my brother.  I don’t have to live up to the Conference’s expectations.  I get my direction from God.

I believe, that if we focus on being spiritually healthy, we will become numerically strong – based on the “all by itself” principle espoused by Christian Schwartz in the Natural Church Development program.

So, it is time for me to quit looking over my shoulder and to start focusing on the direction God gives me – not that I’m not doing that.  But it feels like God told me initially, “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.” (1 Chronicles 17:2)  But now God is saying, “Wait a minute, I have another plan.”

Maybe I needed permission and drive to get this off the ground, but now it is time to focus on being spiritually healthy – now that we have critical mass.

Clarity, discernment, wisdom, and vision – that is what I pray for Lord.  There are so many conflicting voices coming into my head.  Which ones are from you and which ones are from Satan – and which ones are just noise and confusion?

Clarify in my heart Lord – what is it you would have me to do?




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