Promised or Presumed?

If you call now you too can experience the same amazing results!

Have you ever labored under the impressions of a promise that was never really given? When you get a job there is an agreed upon salary. That’s pretty clear. There can be times when you have worked overtime, or volunteered for a special shift with the impression that there will be some kind of reward, when that was never really promised. That can be a major letdown. But it doesn’t mean you quit the job. It means next time you will make sure you have a right understanding with the boss.

I have found that my life in ministry has been a similar experience. When I was in Bible college I was given the impression of a promise similar to that of the TV commercial pitch line above. It was well intentioned. The people who made it believed it. Many of them had lived it. If I did what they did I would get the same results, guaranteed, or my money back. This promise was condensed in a wonderful little Calvary-ism: healthy sheep reproduce.

This saying, which certainly seems true on a ranch, doesn’t always play out in the world of ministry. Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea. It’s a good concept. It’s a good motivator as a pastor and teacher of the word. But it gives the impression of a promise that simply isn’t present in scripture as an absolute “rule.” It contributes to what I have called in the past, Calvary Complacency. It’s the idea that says, “If you teach it, they will come.” Or, “If you teach it, your church will grow numerically.”  With this mindset, many pastors, myself included, have labored under the impression of a promise that was never really promised. It was a presumption on my part.

The Exchange Church is a do-over from a previous Calvary Chapel in the Sub-rural town of Forest Grove, OR. The CC existed for 9 years and little to no impact on the community. There was one new believer in 9 years. Most people in town didn’t know the church existed. Even CC fans didn’t know it was here because they were going to the CC 15 miles away. The previous pastor was laboring in Calvary Complacency mode for years, for better or for worse.

Now, as TEC, we have been here for four years, rebuilding, replanting. As I try to look at our church objectively, I have to say that we are having as much impact on our community as the previous version of the church. That bothers me. We have been doing our best to focus on who and what we have and not who and what we don’t have, to missionally, contextually, and faithfully teach and live God’s word, to connect with our community, to discern where God is moving and go there, not asking God to bless what we are doing, yet we have seen less that five new believers or recommitments to Jesus.

What is the problem? What is missing? It would seem that I have been laboring in a form of Calvary Complacency while being critical of it at the same time. I have presumed the power of God while it hasn’t been promised. We have been waiting on the Lord without being told what we are to wait for. In the Bible, whenever God tells someone to wait it is for a promise. He doesn’t just say, “Wait.” He says, “Wait because I am going to do express my power in some way in you/among you/through you.”

What I have recently come to realize is that I have not been given a specific promise. Our church has not been given a specific promise. This has become evident and even confirmed in recent conversations. I have been seeing it from a big picture and pastoral level. Jordan (our worship leader) has been seeing it in his area. Our leadership team has seen it from a church community aspect. We all know we need the power of the Holy Spirit to move and keep moving among us in order to be what Jesus wants us to be as His body in this town. We also have all been expecting it to just happen as part of some formula with sincere hearts. We have been asking, seeking, and knocking, for years. At least it seems like we have been. We all want God to do, you know, something. The sheep are healthy, why aren’t they reproducing? Does it mean they aren’t really healthy if they aren’t reproducing?

After sharing all of this with a pastor I greatly respect, he encouraged me to seek, nay, wrestle a promise from the Lord as Jacob did. Huh? You mean I have to fight for it? I have to fight for something I know scripture says the Lord wants to give me anyway? But, if I teach it they will come! A servant of the Lord must not strive! It’s His church and He’s going to build it! True, but sometimes you have to labor. Sometimes you have to wrestle for the blessing. Crap. I’m not a wrestler. I’m not a fighter. I want God to just do it. Do what? Something cool. Something big. There I go again, laboring under a presumption. What I need to do is seek the Lord for a promise for this body, whatever that may be. Is it to simply be faithful to who we have and not worry about new believers? Maybe. Is it to be the epicenter for an awesome revival in Forest Grove? That would be fantastic. Whatever it is, I need to get that, wait on that, and expect God to do what He has promised, no more and no less.

How about you? Do you have a promise from the Lord? I mean a specific promise for you whether you are a ministry type or not. For pastors, do you have a promise from the Lord for your church or are you operating under a presumption? Wrestle. Get your church to wrestle. If you do have a promise, be faithful. Hang in there. If the Lord told you to wait and he will do, then keep on waiting and see what He will do.

Act now while supplies last.

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