I attended a conference years ago that changed my life, just not the way that it was supposed to. The conference was on creating a turnaround church. Shortly afterwards, I attended another conference on how to create a successful church. All of this resonated with my heart: I wanted to be the guy who made things happen, and who could teach others to make it happen to.
That's when it hit me. Maybe we don't need a turnaround church. Maybe we need a dying church, one that is heeding Jesus' call to die to itself, to take up its cross, and to follow Him. I started a new blog with that theme (the now defunct dyingchurch.com) and it kept me going for years.
I've been thinking of this lately as I've meditated on John 12:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:24-26)
Want to be a person, a church, that's like Jesus? Fall to the ground and die. Give up your life in service. Want to be with Jesus, and honored by the Father? Die to yourself. Jesus' example in going to the cross is one for us to follow as well.
I love how Tim Keller puts it in his sermon on this passage called "Fall to the Ground":
The cross says the way up is down. The way to get real power is to give your power away and serve. The way to get real riches is to give away your money radically and generously. The way to get tremendous self-esteem, assurance of your beauty and your worth, is to admit you’re such a terribly lost sinner ... The way to power is to give power away. The way to real riches is to give your money away. The way to real influence is not to seek influence.
Want to serve like Jesus? Fall to the ground and die. Want to be a church that follows the way of Jesus? Die to yourself and you will find real life for the first time.
George Müller, a man who cared for over 10,000 orphans in England during his life, was once asked, “What has been the secret of your life?” He replied, “There was a day when I died, utterly died — died to George Müller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends — and since then I have only to show myself approved to God.”
I want to die, and pastor a church that dies this way, and so follow the way of Jesus. I want to live in a dying kind of way.
- - - -
In just over a week, five churches will be coming together to consider the cross of Jesus Christ. We'll be meeting on Good Friday at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto at 7:00 PM. If you are in or near Toronto, please consider joining us as we think about the One who fell to the ground for us, and who calls us to fall to the ground in service to him.
I hope to see you there.