I was thinking yesterday about freedom and what it means in this country, the greatest on the planet. I was struck by the fact that one thing that has become an “American tradition” is the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. So much so that it is broadcast live on ESPN and becomes a lead story on Fox News and CNN. The perinnial champion, Takera Kobayashi (who went down in defeat this year to an American) even has his own beer commercial now! Dan Haseltine of Jars Of Clay lamented about this same topic in a recent issue of Relevant magazine. I thought yesterday, though about what this says to the world about “freedom” in America.
Today I had lunch with a pastor from Kenya. He spoke of the need for simply feeding children in his home. Children who are orphaned by the thousands because of AIDS. The vision for his church is to feed the children physically, then build a school to feed them mentally and spiritually with the Gospel and in the process feed them emotionally. The school is to be designed to teach them how to feed themselves by being a working farm at the same time. Then he desires to send them back out to do the same for others in the villages. I believe his heart is to give them freedom spiritually, physically and emotionally, so that they are not enslaved to some government, dictator, or even aid from other countries. They need assistance to be equipped to change a pattern that will ultimately impact generations down the road.
We are so about ourselves that we celebrate “freedom” in this country every day by stuffing our faces, not with hotdogs, but with everything this world offers. Even as Christians, we feel the need to “have it all”. The “American Dream” is one of excess and we as the church can easily buy into it. Now, I’m not some liberal who thinks that we should buy into a socialistic mentality. Far from it! I’m definitely at the other end of that spectrum. However, our mindset as the church is to be outwardly focused. Yes we should minister to one another’s needs within the Body of Christ, but we need to stop the “consumer” mentality of looking at a church for what it can do for ME and looking at it with a “missional” mindset that looks for what God is doing through the church and how I can be a part of HIS agenda.
Freedom begins when we acknowledge that we are not free unless we are tied to Christ. What the world sells us as freedom is actually enslavement to sin. Jesus wants you and I to be free, but we tend to keep going back to those things that enslaved us before we gave our lives to Him. We so want to satisfy some fleshly craving that we just “stuff our face” with the things of the world and ultimately leave Jesus somewhat emaciated in our hearts.
I don’t think that our founding fathers’ ideas of the American Dream included some of the things we claim as “rights’ in our “Free” society. We’re just stuffing our face! Someone once said, “I believe God blessed America and we spent the blessing on ourselves.” Could the same thing be said of the church in America today?
We are finishing a series this Sunday called “Finding Your Sweet Spot“. Your Sweet Spot is that place God designed you to serve Him and be a part of His mission. It is your Spiritual Gift, your “WOW Factor” or passion, the fact that Everyone’s Unique (your personality), your Experiences and your Talents. (none of this is new, just reformatted) All of these things combine to be your Sweet Spot for ministry. All of it should focus us OUTWARDLY too. We should be a part of equipping the church for the purpose of reaching and rescuing, not stuffing our spiritual faces on things we think we need. When we are hitting our “sweet spot” we will be exactly where God designed us to be and we won’t want to be anywhere else. That’s FREEDOM. Freedom in Christ indivudually from sin…then freedom to serve Him where He designed us to…for the purpose of accomplishing HIS mission…not just so I can get “fatter” spiritually.
Find your Sweet Spot and serve and minister and reach and rescue those who are dying without hope. Be it in Africa or across the street or in the next cubicle or across the school cafeteria or at your child’s bedside.
Next time you start looking for a church that will “meet your needs” (and let’s be honest, we’ve all thought or said that…even as leaders at times), remember this quote from Erwin McManus “The church is not here to meet our needs. We are the church and we are here for the world.”