Pursue the Real Thing
LEADERSHIP REALLY MATTERS
REV. JAY HANSON
Have you ever noticed how much of what we buy is an imitation of the real thing? In the grocery store you can purchase chocolate flavored chips, butter flavored spread, and imitation vanilla extract. My kitchen has wood grain vinyl flooring, granite-look counters, and faux leather chairs. My dogs eat food that tastes like real meat and beg for bones that smell like chicken. In my bathroom are products that make my face appear younger and dry shampoo that helps my three-day old hair look fresh and clean. Our lives are full of imitation products – things that appear “real enough” but ultimately are only reflections of what’s actually real.
Unfortunately, this can be true of our churches as well. We settle for cheap imitations of true faith and discipleship – things that appear “real enough” to people looking at the surface. When we settle for a culturally acceptable faith, we not only limit ourselves, but also hinder our witness to the world. What would it look like to pursue the real thing and not settle for an imitation?
- Pursue discipleship, not busyness.
Church leaders love a busy, active church, and as long as people are busy doing things at and in the church, we assume they must be growing. Busyness is rather easy to achieve, but true discipleship requires more than time. Discipleship happens through intentionality, dedicated time, sincerity, and authentic relationships. Busyness is an indication of a burdened schedule, while within a true disciple is a burdened heart for reaching the lost.
- Pursue relationships, not rescue.
As people who have been rescued by Christ, we are called to help others. The quickest, easiest way to help others is to simply rescue them from their situation and take care of their perceived needs. In this transactional view of missions, we prioritize tasks over relationships and help from a distance, operating by the assumption that we have and know exactly what they need. But what if God is calling us to meet immediate needs in others’ lives so that we can build a relationship with them and show them how they can meet their eternal needs in Him? Let’s be people who pursue relationships with others so we can help them discover the ultimate answer to all their needs.
- Pursue participation, not attendance.
How many people attended worship this weekend? How many people did you have in Sunday School? These are the most common measures of effectiveness in the church world. While important, this measurement only scratches the surface. What if we looked for a deeper way to measure growth? How many people participated in the worship service (giving, singing, actively listening and learning)? How many people participated in your Sunday School classes (sharing, caring for others, and leading)? Whose life was changed by an encounter with God? Who took next steps in their faith by joining a group, becoming a member, serving for the first time, or leading a group? Let’s prioritize participation over mere attendance.
- Pursue growth, not comfort.
Many choose a church based on the level of comfort it brings and how well it fits in with their personal preferences for worship. They settle for something comfortable that doesn’t cause them to change too much. However, Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable – He came to set us free! He came to set us free from the fear and anxiety of change so we can become comfortable being uncomfortable and move into new places of change. Every change that leads us to become more like Him causes us to grow. And when we grow we move outside of our comfort zone into new places of dependence on him. Growth may be risky and uncomfortable, but the allure of comfort only keeps us stuck.
- Pursue community, not independence.
Is your faith being lived out in community or lived out in your own way on your own terms? When we isolate our faith and keep it to ourselves, we don’t receive the fullness of God’s blessings! He longs to bless us in the midst of community, allowing us to receive from others and draw upon their wisdom and the way God has worked in their lives. When we fail to see our relationship with God as a part of a vital community of faith, we miss out on all God has for us to receive.
Back in the 70s, Coca-Cola claimed to be the “real thing” because imitation colas were popping up all over the place. They claimed everything else was just a copy of their original and urged people to not settle for anything less.
In the same way, what if churches stopped settling for cultural Christianity and only pursued the “real thing?” Imagine how quickly we would grow as we fully and completely gave ourselves to worship, service, and discipleship! Consider how many more people would come to Christ because they see the “real thing” in our lives and realize how it meets a need only He can fill! Think about how lives would be changed if a casual, surface-level relationship with God and the church would no longer do and we gave ourselves whole-heartedly to knowing Him more and making Him known!
Lord, help us fervently pursue more of You. Give us a distaste for anything that is less than authentic. Help us recognize when we settle for cultural Christianity and draw us back into a rich, life-giving relationship with You. Amen.
Jay Hanson, Lead Pastor, and Anne Bosarge, Multi-Campus Director, serve at The Chapel Ministries. They love sharing about the ways God is moving in their church. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.