I have reflected recently on the importance of keeping the church on the front foot? In other words how do we take courageous steps forward, seize the initiative and accept the challenges that come our way?
I believe it starts with the leadership (see previous blog) and has implications for the membership. It is on this issue that we now concentrate.
A church (on the front foot) is marked by members who...
...consider themselves to be disciples of Jesus first and foremost.
In the gospels a disciple is a learner and a follower; a disciple submits to Jesus as teacher and learns from him, and a disciple also follows Jesus. Therefore, the life of a disciple is different because of his relationship with Jesus. Jesus' call to follow him is not merely a kind of nominal adherence to a group, but one that will lead to wholehearted commitment. Jesus' disciples are people for whom a life has been given in ransom (Matthew 20:28) and who are committed to following and serving Jesus, who not only took time to teach his disciples but who died and rose again for them. It follows that these disciples ought to be committed people. A church on the front foot is marked by members who recognise this reality.
...put the concerns of the people of God above their own self-interest.
Church members (on the front foot) have the heart of a man we find in Paul’s letters. His name is Epaphras and what he is remembered for gives us much to ponder…”He always prays fervently for you, asking God to make you stand firm, as mature and fully convinced Christians, in complete obedience to God's will” (Colossians 4:12).
...not only show up but also step up!
Church members (on the front foot) recognise their place in the body of Christ. As a result, they play their part in the healthy functioning of the body of Christ.
...have the heart of a missionary as opposed to the attitude of a consumer.
Consumerism is the dominant ‘religion’ pursued by people in our culture. That mind-set can easily creep into local church life. Today it is not uncommon for Christians to 'shop around' for a local church that they think best suits their needs.
However. Church members (on the front foot) are focused on the mission of God in the world. They take the words of Jesus seriously, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
My prayer for the church in 2015 is that, equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we may take positive steps forward…and keep the body of Christ on the front foot.