I believe that there is a problem in the church today. We’ve defined success differently than our Lord, Jesus Christ did. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if the time of the incarnation had been delayed two-thousand years (to present day), we would brand the ministry of Christ as a failure. After all, He doesn’t look much like many of the churches that we tell ourselves are succeeding.
We judge success by numbers, by growing a church numerically. Jesus’ goal was not numbers by any means. When multitudes followed Him, He seemed to do something to try to get them to leave. He would say, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood” (to which His disciples responded, “That was a hard word”). Or He would say, “Hate your father and mother,” and they would leave. If He were numbers driven, He would have pounced on anyone who showed interest in following Him (much like the common practice of churches today), but what did He do? He tried to find the one thing that would make them leave and then expose it.
He told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had because that’s the thing that would keep him from following. He told another who wanted to first bury his father, “Let the dead bury their own.” And yet another He tried to sway from following by letting him know He had no home—though even the birds and foxes do.
Therefore, let us conclude that the goal is not numerical growth, and we do not rate our success or failure on numbers. If it were, Christ would not have done what He did. Then what was He really thinking? What was His goal, drive, and purpose? It had to be something the church today is missing, for our minds have been so ingrained by our created purposes that low numbers depress us. It is a good thing that they did not depress Jesus who had 5,000 to feed fish but only 12 who were willing to be fed with the word.
I believe His purpose and goal was to make those whom God had placed in His care complete in Himself and present them to His Father. That’s what Christ is doing in John 17—He is presenting to the Father those whom He has been given, having done His all to make them complete in Himself and equipped for ministry.
I believe we are all to take those whom God gives us and do what is necessary to present them complete in Christ and thoroughly equipped for ministry. Therefore, our purpose statement should stem from this passage—Colossians 1:28-29. And we should strive to keep its content continually before us …
… For too long we’ve missed this purpose. We’ve done everything but focused on man’s completion in Christ, and consequently we have slowed our spiritual progression. We do not mature automatically with the passage of time. Thus we have ended up repeating the same mistakes, again and again. We have become content with Christian experience far different than that of the New Testament. And even worse, we have developed different theologies to justify our experience and changed the goals laid out in Scripture to fit the direction to which we are heading. These are goals we were never intended to have.
The consequence of this is that we have allowed two lines to be drawn instead of one. Nowadays there is not only a line that separates Christians and non-Christians, but our misdirection has allowed an additional line to be drawn between Christians and “those really hungering after God.” Our Lord would allow no such line to exist among His followers. If you were to follow Him, it meant you were hungering after Him, otherwise you couldn’t take following where He was leading—to completion before His Father.
It is my prayer and goal that our direction (being the same as that of Christ) will result in the same environment among those here. I pray that all who are here are hungering so much to know their God, glorify Him, and be found complete in Him on that day that they would be willing to give their lives for this. Such was the state of His disciples …
With such a people who have put all hope in Christ … God will work mightily. With these few men, (according to their observers) Jesus turned the world upside down.
I pray that we will be such a people with such a focus that if someone is hungering for completion in Christ that he or she would be drawn (by the Spirit) like a magnet, and yet if he or she is not hungering after Him that they would not be willing to join the road on which we are walking, seeing that it is mimicking that on which Christ was walking and led the multitudes to turn away.
But may God give us many who hearts are whole toward Him as we strive according to His power to present them complete in Christ to the glory of God …