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Recently I read through Isaiah in my personal devotions when I read this verse:
Isaiah 57:14 God says “Rebuild the road! Clear away the rocks and stones so my people can return from captivity.”
As soon as I read it I wrote in my journal: “God calls people home but we need to clear the pathway for them.”
That really is the role of the church. We can’t call people’s hearts, only God can do that; but we better be working hard to clear away the rocks and stones so God’s people can return home. Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t putting rocks and stones in the road instead of clearing them as a church. While we don’t want to diminish the cost of following Jesus we also don’t want to be the ones that keep people from coming to Him. There are some things we can do to clear the pathway, here are four.
1. Language — The language we use in the church can either be a way we clear the road or clog it up. It might be the language we use in our preaching. Someone who is far from God may not understand the word regeneration or sanctification, but they can understand “made new” and “set apart.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t use theological words like those, I’m just saying we need to explain them when we do. We need to preach in a way that clears the pathway for people to come home. This is why we use the New Living Translation at Element. It’s written in a language that we actually use today. I have nothing against the King James Version of the Bible, I’m just against using language that puts rocks and stones in the pathway for people to return to God. Are we communicating the Gospel in such a way that people who are far from God have a clear pathway to come home to him?
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2. Logistics — Here at Element Church we call them “Next Steps.” One of the ways we can clear the pathway for people is by giving them next steps to take that are easy and obvious. And by easy, I don’t mean less cost, just easily accessible. I truly believe that following Jesus can be boiled down to a series of next steps. As long as you are breathing, God has a next step for you to take. The moment you think you’re done taking steps you might want to start planning your funeral because your next step may be into eternity. This is a question we are constantly wrestling with at Element Church: Is the pathway for discipleship clearly marked for people? Discipleship is a tough nut to crack. Everyone needs discipled but we all are discipled in different ways and at a different pace. I’ve come to the conclusion that discipleship is not a program, it is a process. So what process do you have in place for people to be discipled? What are the logistics in your church that clear away the rocks and stones from the pathway for people to get in the process of discipleship?
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3. Love — If the church doesn’t figure this one out soon we will completely lose our voice in culture. Jesus was the master at living this out. Being FULL of grace AND truth! We in the church seem to be struggling with that and it’s putting rocks and stones in the pathway. We are really good at being full of grace… anything goes, or full of truth… you’re going to hell. Love finds the balance. Love has the ability to accept someone IN their sin without affirming their life of sin. Love has the ability to speak truth in away that is loaded with grace. Love has the ability to say to the adulterous woman “Go and sin no more” and it is accepted. Love does not mean allowance and it doesn’t mean against, love is FOR Jesus and Jesus is FOR people. In a culture that is rapidly changing it’s views on many moral issues that are clear in Scripture, we have GOT to figure this one out.
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4. Leadership — Nothing clogs the pathway with rocks and stones more than poor leadership. In fact, the other three issues we talked about all fall on this. The leader(s) is the one who steers the course in language, logistics and love. We set the bar. We might have amazing intentions and a great plan, but without clear leadership we are just clogging the road with rocks and stones. The way in which we lead, I believe, reveals the weight we give to this responsibility of clearing the pathway home. If we believe it is our responsibility to clear the path, we will either lead well, or hand off the baton to someone who will. I’m not even suggesting a model of leadership, just good leadership. The church needs leaders who will stand firm in Christ, set a clear course, stop at nothing, risk everything, pray unceasingly and work tirelessly to clear the pathway for people to come home.
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God calls people home but we need to clear the pathway for them.