May 10, 2010

Three Lost Boys and a Local Church

Written By Cary Schmidt

A Story of the Power of Local Church Ministry

Opening scene—a young family of five is running late to church on a Sunday morning. Three lost, long-haired, little boys (all younger than seven years) sit quietly in the back seat of the car, while a frustrated mom and dad debate over “why” they are late. The scene is a microcosm of their lives—two frustrated adults, groping for truth and direction, fighting for a young marriage and children, and three boys romping through childhood, unaware of how desperately their family needs a miracle. The family has rarely attended church, but they are looking for something. And they hope that church will lead them to help. Apart from a miracle, this family has little hope.

Scene two—moments later, out of exasperation, dad whips the car into the driveway of the closest church—”Fine then, we’ll just go here,” he spouts. Herecould have been anywhere—but for the Divine providence of God. Herehappened to be a healthy, local, independent Baptist church. And while mom and dad are still fussing with each other, the three boys bound into the lobby and down the center aisle to find a seat close to the front. Congregational singing is in progress, and Mom and Dad are appalled to see that their boys have gone rogue and now they must follow. A discerning Christian quickly vacates her second row seat for the visiting family, and seconds later all five are aligned and alert “in spitting distance” of the pulpit. Mom and Dad are embarrassed, but the boys are just glad to have a good view!

Scene three—a strong biblical message has been preached by a spirit-filled preacher. Heads are bowed and eyes are closed. An invitation song is being sung. Three lost, little boys stand quietly, wide-eyed, and alone on the second row. Dad and Mom have tearfully stepped out to speak with the pastor. They are taken to a room with a counselor where Dad recommits his life to Jesus and Mom accepts Him as Saviour. The three boys are waiting with an elderly lady on the second row who graciously gives them candy and tells them, “Mommy and Daddy will be done in a moment.” But the boys are in no hurry, because after all, they are eating candy.

Fast forward five days. The young family has now attended six nights of church in a row—due to the fact that Sunday morning began a revival meeting and the boys wanted to return every night to hear the children’s stories. It is now Friday night. The oldest boy has trusted Christ as his Saviour. The two younger will soon follow. And every night of the week, this searching young family has been welcomed, loved, and nurtured in something foreign to their home—the love of Jesus Christ.

Scene four—six months have passed. Life for this young family has changed dramatically. Attending three services each week, all five are growing in the Word, developing strong relationships, and being discipled by a patient pastor and compassionate church family. The three little boys now have a home that is being built upon Christ, and a daddy and mommy that are discovering biblical principles of marriage and family life.

Scene five—a year has passed. Dad and Mom have been enlisted as youth workers. A loving youth pastor has led them through a training course. They have adopted a new standard of living that they might be a godly example to the youth of the church. The training provided more than well-trained youth workers. It provided a Biblical frame-work that Dad and Mom adopted at home as well. The principles proved effective with their own three sons. And in short order, Dad is selected to teach the Sr. High teen class. As a result, he becomes an avid Bible student. What he learns, he lives. What he lives, he begins to pass on to three sets of eyes watching ever so carefully.

Pause button, please. Hold the still frame in your mind. The story continues, but we will stop here for it is much too long. The little boys all grow up to love and serve God. Daddy and Mommy stay together and become happy Grammy and Grandpa to fourteen third-generation Christians. It’s a wonderful story, really. But before we walk away, we must consider—what principles are at play in this plot?

First, Jesus Loves, Died for, and Works through Local Church Ministry. A faithful pastor who preaches the Word, a supportive staff who share in the work, a unified church family, growing, serving, loving, and laboring together—these elements, when functioning optimally by their biblical pattern, form a God-empowered force for astounding life-change. The pattern never fails. It works by the anointing grace of Almighty God. He loves this entity. He blesses this formula. And miracles can still happen in the lives of daddies, mommies, and mop-headed little boys because of this wonderful institution called the local church.

Second, Jesus Added an Imperfect You to an Imperfect Church Family as a Part of His Perfect Plan. Some would argue today that the church is a failed entity—a flawed proposition. And they attempt a convincing argument. They point out ineffective churches and failed movements. They rehearse the failures of past church leaders. They share their own personal scars and wounds inflicted by fractured church families and carnal Christians. But in every case, it was not God’s model that was flawed. God’s pattern still works beautifully when Spirit-filled Christians allow it!

Every member of every local church is broken—human—frailty personified. Yet it is not the humans that make it work! It is the supernatural hand of Christ being expressed through the frailty of human flesh—this is what makes the miracles! The model still works if we will allow the Holy Spirit to produce it through us.

Third, When You Embrace Your Local Church, Everybody Wins. Jesus placed you in His church for a purpose. Perhaps you were the usher who handed the little boys their bulletin as they blew past you. Perhaps you were the singer who first drew this family’s attention to Christ’s love. Perhaps you were the janitor who prepared the room or the sound man who checked the microphones. Perhaps you were the preacher who prepared the message or the vigilant church member who gave up her seat. Perhaps you were the children’s teacher who so captivatingly told the stories, or the elderly lady who obeyed the Holy Spirit and remembered the candy! Perhaps you were the youth leader who trained or the summer intern who demonstrated the joy of Christianity. Perhaps you were the faithful tither, the prayer warrior, or the behind-the-scenes servant. Whoever you are in the story, you are vital.

Because you serve, everybody wins. You win because you get to invest your abilities and resources into something eternally valuable. Your family winsbecause you all get to grow and serve God together. Your whole family gets to develop life-long relationships in an abundantly, joyful place. Your church family wins because the work of God goes forward through your faithful service and sacrifice. Your community wins because the love of Christ is personified—you become the heart and hands of Jesus changing your city. And best of all—little, lost boys and their parents win because their lives are forever transformed through the amazing love of Christ. The local church gives a kind of love that isn’t found in any other place on Earth!

Jesus Christ is still pleased to work through faithful, imperfect church families for His perfect purposes. The local church is it! It’s the place. It’s the plan. It’s the one entity on the planet established by God where His miracles continue to unfold—one heart at a time. I love the local church! I pray you will too. Wherever this article finds you, turn your heart toward Christ by finding the local church where He desires to implant you. Immerse your heart wholly into that church. Invest into that church. Love and encourage others in that church. Support and pray for the pastor of that church. Get involved in serving in that church. Put your abilities, gifts, and resources to work in that which God says He loves—in that which Christ purchased on the cross. You will not find a better investment of your life, your time, your energy, your money, your talents, or your resources. This is the pinnacle of perfect investment opportunities—an investment into that which changes hearts.

How do I know? Why do I so confidently assert that the local church is God’s plan for bringing searching hearts to Christ? How can I so passionately believe in the miracle of life-change through the local church? Because I was there.

The miracle happened to me. For I was the oldest of the three boys—who are no longer lost.