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- Kid's Church: 11:00am-12:00pm
Just over two years ago, our church entered into our "ALL IN" capital campaign; a campaign we hoped would result in helping us toward reaching our goal of making fully devoted followers of Christ who would Love God, Love People, and Serve the World.
We dreamt big; really big. We knew it was going to take a major effort to raise the money to do the things we felt we needed to do. Above all, it was going to take three things:
As I sat and prayed in the months before the campaign trying to decide what the theme should be, a lot of different thoughts came to mind. I believe God gave me three verses that would guide and inspire us through the campaign.
The first was from Luke 9. In that chapter we see Jesus feeding 5,000 people with a boy’s snack that he had brought along for the afternoon. He also miraculously heals a demon-possessed boy. Folks were understandably excited.
In a moment of passion, one man came up to Jesus and said, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.” Jesus looked at the man and said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
In other words he was saying to him “do you really understand the commitment you just made? Really? Are you willing to give up creature comforts? Are you willing to change your lifestyle to follow me?”
Right away a couple of other people said “I’ll come too, please include me in your plans. I have a few things to do first, but I’m definitely on board. Please pencil me in.”
And Jesus made one of those pronouncements that preachers, fearing the perceived harshness of the message try to soften. He said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back, is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
There it was. He was calling them to be, ALL IN. With one statement Jesus was separating the fans from the followers.
Who wouldn’t be a fan of the team that leads the league? The real test comes when it’s cold and drizzling near the end of September, and your team is 18 games out of first place and there you are cheering the home team on. Those are the true followers. Those are the committed ones.
Jesus knew the hearts of men and women. He called them to complete dedication and commitment, no matter what. He called them to be ALL IN. Even if their lives up to that very moment had been characterized by looking back (which you can see from the zig-zag pattern the plow makes behind them), now was the time to move forward.
You can’t look back and expect to move forward. I knew that we as a church would need a total commitment to Christ and his agenda if we were going to be successful.
In 1 Chronicles 12 we see men coming from all over Israel who, “...came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel.”
And the Chronicler records the numbers of men who were coming and the tribe which they came from. Those from Ephraim and Benjamin were characterized as “brave” and the men from Judah were carrying good equipment, while those from Asher were “prepared for battle.”
Then there were the men from Issachar. He wrote of these men that they were “men who understood the times, and knew what Israel should do.” This verse like the one from Luke 9 grabbed my heart too.
With everyone else their battle prowess and combat readiness were highlighted, but with these men, it was their leadership and understanding that was noted. They weren’t great in number, but their influence was huge.
These men weren’t merely caught up in the fervor of the battle cry. They weren’t bored and needed some action. They surveyed the landscape, took note of the perilous times in which they lived, and set out to make a difference.
And it further says that they brought with them to fight “all their relatives under their command.” They brought their families along too. “Hey guys, we’re doing this together. We are all in together. As we have taken a step back and surveyed the piles of lost lives that this other king in our culture is producing at record speed, we have decided to throw our lot in over here with this other guy. We believe so much in him and his vision for our nation so let’s all go in together on this.”
As I thought about that generation of men and I looked out at our own fractured families pockmarked by strife and hidden conflict; as I saw our nation, clearly divided with people looking to man-made institutions to provide answers that they were never designed to give; as I observed churches struggling to keep their doors open (many headed by discouraged leaders), and a culture turning away from church and from God, I thought “we must put ourselves to the task of healing and redemption. It would be intolerable to do nothing.”
So discussions began and the campaign took shape with a goal of increasing our footprint in western Essex County. A campaign marked by outreach to the poor whose numbers were increasing. A campaign that had a goal to fill the balcony seats with people who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. People who have carved out in their own mind their own form of self-salvation, but who didn’t know Jesus. A campaign designed around increased ministry opportunity in perilous times.
The biblical writer said of the men of Issachar that they were “men who understood the times, and knew what Israel should do.” I knew we had to be like them.
In Colossians 2, the apostle Paul writes, “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.”
Paul was working with all his might, day and night to bring the knowledge of Christ and the treasures he holds to those in Laodicea (and around the ancient world). It was a truly great endeavor.
But the question is why? Why go through all the trouble Paul? Why suffer sleepless nights? Why spend your health, your wealth, your time and your talent contending hard for the people of that ancient city?
The “Why” question must be answered to make sense of any great endeavor. So why, Paul? Why go through all the effort?
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Colossians 2:1-3).
He wanted them to deeply understand the love of God that would launch their lives into a whole different trajectory than they otherwise might experience.
And so knowing all this we entered into a three-year capital campaign asking our church to decide to be “ALL IN.” We asked everyone to make a decision to be “ALL IN” to what we felt God was leading us to do in the days and years ahead.
Our church responded, above and beyond what we initially thought was possible. And there have been some major moves forward because of the commitment to Christ’s agenda, because everyone understood the task, and because we all focused on the goal.
And God has blessed us.