Sunday, August 22, 2010
"Strive for greatness."
That's what I recently saw on a billboard by the freeway. Then, coincidently enough, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, where he was trying to help me reach my "full potential" with a pep talk that finished with:
"You're good. But you don't just wanna be good...be GREAT!"
"Right", I nodded. I don't think that he believed me though, because he looked at me like I was the biggest loser in the world. I think it had to do with the fact that I didn't seem too enthused with the notion of greatness.
The conversation bothered me, and at first, I didn't really know why. Was it because he was simply regurgitating what he had been spoon-fed by someone else? Was it because he sounded like Tony Robbins or Joel Osteen on crack? I just didn't know. I just sat there on his couch, zoned out for the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out why I was stewing over this. However, as I was driving home later, it hit me;I don't want to be great. Color me an under-achiever, but it's true. I'm not built for it...
I also started to notice how things change as we get older. Think back to when you were a kid. Everyday before you left the house, got on the bus, or got out of the car to go to school, you always heard the phrase, "Be good", or "Have a good day". But, somewhere along the way, good just wasn't good enough anymore. We treat goodness like old clothes that we've outgrown. But, truth be told, I believe that the shift from good to great is due largely in part to what we began to realize as we age; and that is that it is much easier to attain a high level of "greatness" (in a human sense) than it is to achieve the smallest amount of true goodness. From Samson, to David, to our modern day heroes; most individuals that we consider great at something, are usually extremely flawed. When it comes to good, we have to severely lower our standards of what that means to even put it in the same sentence with another human being. I remember a time when I was watching a prison documentary. They were talking to an inmate on death row who had killed his mother and step father in cold blood, but he still considered himself to be "basically, a good person". Yet, even though we lower the bar, the standard remains the same (Matthew 7:11). For us, we use greatness as a cover for our lack of goodness. You can be a great lover, a great athlete, a great teacher, great communicator, great leader, or even all of these great things combined, and still not be a good person. Examine for yourself: How many times have you seen or heard about someone who was "great" at something, yet they weren't a good family man/woman? How many times have we seen great athletes commit some of the most detestable acts, only to have our history books, memories, and legal systems let them off the hook? We have done this for so long that we are now beginning to think that the two words are synonymous, but a quick look at a dictionary will prove that to be very wrong.
The reality is, there is only One who is great (Isaiah 40:9-26). He is great because he is truly good (James 1:17). And while he doesn't share his greatness with anyone, he bestows his goodness on us all, even those who don't care for him (Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:35; Romans 5:6-11; 2 Cor. 5:21). This is the best news of all, because if you're like me, you probably realize by now that no matter how good you try to be, you just can't be "good enough" (Rom. 3:11-12, 21-26). So the real question is, why aim for something I can never be when I can't even attain what I was meant to be (Genesis 1:31)?!
So, I don't strive for greatness, but for gratefulness. I don't need to be great...I need to be good. For that, I need GRACE! (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17)
If I'm good, I'm straight. That's what is truly great (Philippians1:6)...
"Nobody knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good." - C.S. Lewis
Soli Deo Gloria,
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
It seems that every time I meet a pastor from another church, he asks me the common, unsolicited, ecclesiastical question of the twenty-first-century: “How big is your church?” Most pastors are usually a bit confounded when I respond: “I don’t know.” It’s only when I am pressed for an answer that I provide him with the number of families in our congregation. But if I am in a good mood I may simply explain that our church consists of people of every color and language and is as big as the world-wide church of Christ. It is my hope that in some, small way I might help other pastors obtain a better perspective on the size, growth, and health of the church, locally and globally.
Just this past week I had the opportunity to assist in a Lord’s Day service at Saint Andrew’s Church in Mzuzu, Malawi, in the southern part of Africa. At the beginning of the service nearly 200 were present, but before the two-hour service had concluded, more than 2,000 Malawian worshipers filled the sanctuary. Many walking from miles away in the dense, early morning fog, they dressed in their finest clothes and carried their tattered Bibles — if they were fortunate enough to own a Bible. I could not help but smile throughout the entire service except for a moment when I was brought to tears as they sang the classic hymn of the former slave trader John Newton: “Amazing Grace.”
At the end of the first verse, when the congregation sang the familiar stanza that I have sang more than a thousand times — “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see”— it was at that exact moment I remembered that our sovereign God has already settled the entire matter of church growth. God will seek and save those who are lost by the very means He has appointed in His inspired Word. He is the sovereign Lord of all creation, and He certainly does not need to rely upon the cleverly-devised, cultic tactics and trendy, “seeker–sensitive” techniques of Madison Avenue to woo those who are blind to His Gospel. In fact, when such carefully-contrived tactics are used, the blind are usually led by the blind who lead them not to the God of the Bible but to the god of some romantic biography in which that god will do anything he must to win the affections of those he has helplessly lost. May it never be. Rather, may God continue to use the clear, unvarnished preaching of His Word by His people to seek and save the lost so that they may see His glory and live coram Deo, before His face forevermore.
In the age of mega-church madness, this is a refreshing reminder of how the church of Christ is truly multiplied (Acts 2:44-47).
Soli Deo Gloria,