Whatever it Takes
So.. how does it look for you when you come to church. What do you think when you arrive. I recently had a conversation with someone on my arrival that made me start to think. The question was simple… where are the young people and why don’t they bring their friends. My friend then carried on to talk about all of the things we could do in the church building and community if we had a larger congregation. I walked away from the conversation wondering… does she really want the church to grow?
Church growth is not about buildings, plans, money or even our dreams. It is about the lost being found.. becoming disciples of Jesus and bearing fruit in their lives.
The growth of any church is determined by the attitudes of the people who attend the church and those who lead it. If we have attitudes of pride, apathy, laziness, negativity or a critical attitude we will never be all that God wants us to be.
The growth of the church will happen when we “the people of God” step out of our comfortable pews and live the life God has called us to.
I think that’s a great statement “the life God has called us to” I would be willing to wager that as soon as some of you heard that statement you thought of amazing people. Corrie Ten Boom and amazing woman who shows God in a very human light. Mother Theresa shows the compassionate heart of God. These are great examples and I am sure there are many more but I am thinking more of those people we see every day. Those people who you walk away and think... their great! The people who very subtly show you the heart of God. They want to show that to you, they desire to but they never really know if they do… they rely on the spirit to talk to you through there actions. Amazing people of God are easy to read about in the Bible we have so many examples. But then there are those who we really don’t think much about at all.
In Luke 5 we read about the paralyzed man. So often we think how amazing his faith was that he just new… if I can get to Jesus he can heal me. Then and only then will my life be NORMAL, will I be free to live. There is no doubt in my mind that this guy had to work fairly hard to find some friends to take him. He was praralyzed that doesn’t look like it does today. He did have some great wheelchair that he could be pushed there in or even better use the little joystick on the side to get himself there. He was asking friends to pick him up and carry him. In the heat of the middle east, a fair distance. This is a big ask, but he knew… this is my chance I can’t not try. If he hadn’t tried he would probably always wonder… what if?
He was fortunate he had 4 friends who were willing to help him. He needed 4, one to carry each side of the blanket he was sitting or lying on. After travelling a while to the house that they needed to get to, the one they knew Jesus was at… there was no room, they couldn’t get in. Imagine the feeling, disappointment, frustration, a real loss of hope.
I believe this is where his friends really step up and show us what there made of. These friends agreed to do the basic expectation they were willing to put themselves out and carry their friend to see Jesus. But then they show us more. The show us how they were willing to go that extra step further. They were willing to be the ones that went the extra mile. I like to imagine that the friends names were CARE, DREAM, EXPECT and RISK.
Imagine the scene… four men show up carrying another man on a blanket, there are hoards of people. The house that Jesus is in is full no one can get in. They lost their opportunity to help their friend, they were late. They couldn’t carry him fast enough and now he wouldn’t have the chance to ask Jesus to help him. I imagine there feeling of disappointment was evident. I even imagine that it was fairly obvious the friend they were carrying. Of course, he was just thankful they had been willing to try. He knew he never would’ve gotten this close without them. He knew what he had asked of them was a lot and he was glad they had been willing to try but he also knew that not making it on time wasn’t there fault.
Thankfully one of his friends, CARE noticed the disappointment and remembered what he had always been taught CARE MORE THAN OTHERS THINK IS WISE. He shared his concern for their friend with the other three and DREAM thought to himself…. Can you imagine if we could get him in that building… he had been taught to DREAM MORE THAN OTHERS THIS IN PRACTICAL. The third of the friends was taught to EXPECT I imagine his parents new that teaching someone faith also meant to teach them to EXPECT, HE HAD BEEN TAUGHT TO EXPECT MORE THAN IS POSSIBLE THE REAL LOOK OF FAITH, FAITH FINDS A WAY. But all three of these had great hopes and thoughts but with just them there was still something missing, they were still outside the house and their friend STILL wasn’t able to ask Jesus to heal him. The reality is he has probably been this way all of his life, he would carry on living, it wasn’t the best life but at least he was alive.
The fourth friend was the one who everyone mother had told them about… just because he thinks its cool doesn’t mean you have to do it. He was the one that always went a little further than the other boys, he always needed to push the boundaries a little. His name was RISK and HE HAD BEEN TAUGHT TO RISK MORE THAN OTHERS THINK IS SAFE. He was characterized as the one who was willing to try the difficult thing… the unorthodox, the costly. I imagine all 4 of them, that would be the paralyzed man and the three friends were of two minds they were probably hoping he would think of something to help them and they were probably equally praying he wouldn’t…. his plans were always a little riskier than they were comfortable with… what would there mothers think…
ONLY THOSE WHO RISK GOING TO FAR CAN POSSIBLY FIND OUT HOW FAR ONE CAN GO… TS ELIOT
Then there dreams and fears were realized all at once… he turned to them and said… ok, team… I’ve got a plan. He went about telling them the plan… it was fairly reasonable. I mean really, who in the crowd outside wouldn’t move to let them carry their friend through… it’s not like they could get in the house, there were to many people inside that was just not an option… but their ever faithful friend Risk had seen the staircase!! That would get them pretty close to the roof… once they got to the top of the stairs they could surely find a plan to get onto the roof, they just needed to get to the top and see what their options were.
It wasn’t an easy process it did actually take them at least an hour to get through the crowd and to the top of the stairs. At this point Dream shared what he and Risk had been talking about…. We will just remove some of the roof and lower him down. Expect thought this was a great plan as he knew in his heart… it’s all worth it Jesus will heal him and we will all be amazed. They were all so thankful to have expect and his strong belief there showing them what to expect of Jesus… it probably helped with the process knowing that if it worked, they wouldn’t have to carry him home. It was a long way from where they were this morning.
It was amazing to watch as they looked down the roof and heard Jesus acknowledge their friend… they knew they had achieved their goal. He would be healed… wait… what did he just say his sins are forgivien… what does that have to do with his ability to walk… how will that help him get a job and feed his family. How will that help him restore his families honor as he sat for so many years at the gates of the city begging. Before any of them can even answer they realize Jesus is answering their very questions.. or atleast someones. It seems like the religious leaders aren’t worried about their friend at all they seem to be more worried about what right Jesus has to fogive their sins…. Don’t they know who he is… don’t they understand when he arrived in the house… God entered… the very God they said they worshiped…. He was here with them, there was never any question in the friends minds of his ability to forgive his sins.
It seems again Jesus has to explain the obvious to those that are supposed to be able to teach the masses.. WHICH IS EASIER TO SAY… YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN OR STAND UP AND WALK.
It was their faith that Jesus reacted to… Luke 5:20 seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, young man, your sins are forgivien.
There is a relationship between forgiveness and healing (in Acts the cripple healed at the temple is described by the word which means both healed and saved.)
Jesus is the sinners best friend… he just needs them to get to the table to understand, this is where God wants to use us… we all need to be part of the group brining them to the table…. We all at times need to be one of the friends DREAM, EXPECT, CARE AND RISK. Who will you bring to the table? Who do you dare to dream for, expect for care for and even risk for?