I’m going to be straight up from the start: this post is as much (if not more) directed at me than at anyone else. I’m just the average Joe…or, um…Mike (hey, my first name was the most common boy’s name in America for years on end, only recently usurped—you can’t get much more “average” than that!). I have no fancy letters before or after my name and I pastor an average-sized church in a typical small town. There are days I wear a plastic smile, there are days I lay awake at night staring at the ceiling and wondering “is this worth it?”, and there are days I just want to take my dog and move to Alaska to become some reclusive and itinerant Eskimo in a great snowy wilderness. And yes, that last line might net a laugh, but I’m serious. Sigh.
I have an easier time preaching than I do sitting down in a living room and striking up a conversation. I’m more comfortable sharing the gospel with strangers on an internet bulletin board under a pseudonym than I am with the single mother who lives in the other side of the duplex, despite the fact I actually see her and talk to her several times a week.
And above all of that, I believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God, I believe that Jesus is the Lord of life and salvation is found in him and him alone, and I believe that I am supposed to be a doer of the word and not merely a hearer. I believe it! At least, I say I believe it. Do I believe it? Do I actually live it?
This is where a conundrum exists as I look at my life, my church, and the churches around me…lip service is easy to give, but what if I actually do believe the Bible and do what it says? What would be different about my life? What if we as churches actually believe the Bible and do what it says? What would be different about our ministries? Let’s consider just a few points:
What if we actually practiced James 5:16 and as churches confessed our sins to one another and prayed for one another? What kind of healing might we experience? What kind of habits might be broken? How might our lives change if we open ourselves up the vulnerability of loving accountability, rebuke, and correction? Would we actually experience mental, emotional, and spiritual healing in a way we never thought possible?
What if we fit into 1 Peter 2:2 and we longed for the pure spiritual milk of God’s word like a newborn baby? Would we struggle with wisdom in difficult situations? Would we see so many problems and splits in churches? Would we still be so interested on making it to lunch before the Methodists? Would we actually grow to be more like Jesus and have our priorities shaped by his glory?
What if we lived by Philippians 4:8 and we constantly set our minds on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise? Would we still give in to all the gossip? Would we snap at the slightest irritations? Would we speak to others only words that are good for edification (Ephesians 4:29)?
What if we took the words of Galatians 6:1-2 seriously and sought to gently restore those caught in transgressions and bear one another’s burdens? Would we see the gossip standing next to the liar standing next to the porn addict and all truly rejoicing over their freedom and righteousness in Christ? Would they cling fast to and marvel in the words, “And such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” (1 Corinthians 5:11)?
What if husbands loved their wives like Christ loved the church and parents, especially fathers, brought up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 5&6)? Would we see fewer broken families? Would kids have fewer issues at school? Would teachers be more respected? Would children and youth ministries take on new meaning?
What if we believed that apart from Jesus people are cursed and destined to the eternal fire (Matthew 25:41)? Would it move us to the same unceasing sorrow and grief Paul felt when he wished himself accursed and cut off from Christ if it meant his kinsmen would be saved (Romans 9:1-3)? Would we do everything we can to speak the gospel to every man, woman, and child we see?
I could go on…what if us pastors actually delegated ministry so we could focus most on prayer and the word? What if we actually sought greatness by becoming a slave to all? What if we actually took up our crosses and followed… This post could go on for a long time, but we’ll stop here.
Just some food for thought for when we pick up our Bibles to preach or to read in devotions: Since it is the Word of God, and since we are to be doers of the Word let us revel in its words and pray for the Spirit to convict us and lead us from what if to what is.