The Heart Of The Matter
It’s the same wherever I go. Pastors and church leaders want to know what works. What works to ensure growth within the church? Conferences that unveil the latest and greatest ideas are packed. Churches succeeding with a new plan are emulated. Heck, no one wants to fail! We all want to see the church grow numerically as well as influentially.
While in one of the more depressed cities of Romania, I heard the same questions and concerns. Pastors wanted to know my best outreach strategies. They wanted to know how our money was prioritized and spent. They asked about how the worship wars were being played out in America. Even the most conservative and traditional among them were willing to make musical changes if more people would be attracted. The prevailing attitude was “Whatever It Takes!” Whatever it takes to see success, to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (and more precisely, to see that kingdom evident in my church) drove the men to questions.
We spent many hours considering every possible change that could lead to growth. We analyzed them. We debated them. We prayed about them. And we came to a conclusion: Changing the hours of the worship service, redistributing the funds, adding more contemporary music, focusing more heavily on the youth, and a myriad of other possibilities, are hopeless, if there is not first a change of heart within the existing body.
We pastors can preach and teach and implore and plead till we are blue in the face. We can present every idea that is working, somewhere. We can live what we believe. We can sacrifice ourselves for the kingdom. But if the church has no heart for the mission of God to seek and save the lost, our efforts will amount to so very little. If the heart of the church doesn’t match the heart of God, we are doomed. No temporal change will build the church. Only changed hearts can make a difference.
The ministry of the church is all about changing hearts. We want to change the hearts of the lost so that they might be willing to be found. We want to see their hearts changed in order that they too might experience the love and joy of a relationship with Christ. But our efforts are meaningless if first our own hearts have not undergone full and complete renovation.
I am praying for the hearts of the people with whom I minister. I am praying that our hearts will be softened. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our hearts so radically that our hearts will be broken for those that are lost and as a result, we will do whatever it takes to see them found. And that’s the heart of the matter.