The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3
Welcome to the Advent Season, everyone! I am certain this season is as special at your church as it is at mine. Now begins the challenge of leading our people’s hearts to turn toward Christ as opposed to getting so entangled with the secular culture of Christmas that they lose sight of Jesus. I know you are thinking about that. You are considering how you can best lead so as to help your people “prepare the way for the Lord”. In that regard, you, my church leader friend, are John the Baptizer. Your calling this season is to help your people prepare for Jesus.
So, as you strategize about this Advent Season in your own church, and how you will help your people prepare for Jesus, will you just consider the following:
How will you help the single mom who is holding down three jobs and just trying to survive from one day to the next prepare her heart for Jesus?
What is your strategy to help the child whose parent is deployed or in prison or just disappeared to prepare his/her heart for Jesus this season?
What can you do this week to help that nursing home resident who gave your church so many good years of ministry to prepare for Jesus this season?
What is your plan to pour into your second tier of church leaders over the next couple of weeks, so that they and their families are prepared
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Acts 16:26
I’m intrigued by this story in Acts 16, not only because Paul and Silas did not leave through the open door of their jail cell, but also because they were apparently able to convince all of the other prisoners to stay as well. Just a few chapters earlier, Peter left jail under similar circumstances (I know, I know, he had an angel directing him to leave and that is definitely a distinguishing feature!), and I cannot help but wonder if I might not have interpreted an earthquake and chains miraculously falling off me as a sign from God that I should leave!
I think there is a lesson here for the church. Discerning God’s direction for a church is never quite as simple as walking through every door that seems to miraculously open…never merely a matter of seeing God in isolated circumstances. That is true because, as it turns out, there is usually more than one possible interpretation of circumstances! The danger in discerning God’s will in that case is that we all tend to see what we want to see.
What about the scenario where a wealthy church member walks in and agrees to write a check to cover some dream the pastor has always had? Is that necessarily God speaking? What if your church has prayed and asked God to pave the way for a relocation and someone leaves the church a large tract of land in their estate? Is that God saying “move”? If the pastor has always dreamed of starting a half-way house ministry in the house the church owns, and the city planning …