Living in the Now
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Most of us have a difficult time forecasting the future... No one can precisely see what'll happen in the years ahead. Where the body of Christ, the family of God, the Church is concerned, however, I believe that what we do today, under God's guidance, will help determine the shape of tomorrow. So, in a very real sense, the future's now.

As I've reflected on the future of the Church, and where I should focus my energies, I've been led to think about four R's: revival, reconciliation, recruitment, and recognition. Though these words are familiar to all of us, allow me to define what I mean by these terms and why I think focusing on them now is crucial to future progress.

Revival speaks to renewing the church and drawing others in that they might know Christ. For too long the world has set the agenda for society and for the church. This can't continue; God must set the agenda. If we're to fully participate in God's plan, we must demonstrate our commitment to being led and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

The church must operate on the cutting edge. The saints must never become static, self-satisfied, or stagnant. True spiritual, monumental growth will only come as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew and lead each one of us. "Business as usual" is unacceptable; we need open, obedient hearts that hear and faithfully act in response to God's call. Where the need for revival is concerned, the future is now.

Reconciliation is the second step in being the church. First we're called and revived; then we're called to be reconciled to one another.

Although it's received focused attention in recent years, the work of reconciliation is far from being completed. Carnal, worldly attitudes continue to permeate churches and relationships across America. The integrity of believers will be questioned whenever and wherever we ignore reconciliation or diminish its importance.

Reconciliation doesn't mean that we must become identical. God made us all different---but we're members of one body. Our attitudes and actions toward one another must be guided by the Bible; gender, ethnic, and theological differences must not separate us. Where the work of reconciliation is concerned, the future is now.

Recruitment speaks to the need for the people of God to encourage and support those being called into ministry. It's troubling to review the statistics concerning the number of pastors, who will reach retirement age in the next decade or so. How will we replace key leaders as they retire? How will we replenish this vital, but dwindling, resource in the life of the church? We must begin to reverse this trend immediately if we hope to have called, qualified men and women who can provide the kind of capable spiritual leadership that's essential to shepherding God's people in the twenty-first century. Recruiting, educating, mentoring, and providing service opportunities for potential pastors and lay leaders must be a high priority if we hope to meet the leadership needs of our churches. Where the focus on recruitment is concerned, the future is now.

Recognition is necessary for a healthy, growing church family. It's also a subject we sometimes can feel a bit hesitant and self-conscious about. In aspiring to be a godly people, how do we strike the proper balance between humility and giving individuals and groups within the church the affirming, community-building credit they deserve?

Please understand that I'm not suggesting that we applaud one another as a way of puffing up egos and encouraging the sin of pride. What I am talking about is the Christian ministry of appropriate appreciation and encouragement.

We need to recognize and appreciate the hard work, the successes, and even the noble near misses of those who are demonstrating their faithfulness to God. As the connected, mutually committed body of Christ, we must find ways to consistently, sincerely encourage one another. Where recognition is concerned, the future is now.

The four R's are the beginning point. Moving forward will require patience, wisdom, and the leading of the Lord. It'll also require the prayerful, supportive participation of all who claim membership in God's family.

We've some major issues that must be addressed in an honest, positive, creative, and frank atmosphere in the days ahead. We must talk about how we determine priorities. We must work together to develop common goals. We must explore how we best budget and share finances for God's kingdom. We must learn to use what we have for the greatest good of all. We need the participation of each as God calls and directs us. I'm committed to providing as best I can opportunity within God's family...to be actively involved in the exciting future that I believe the Lord has in mind for His kingdom and church. Let's pledge to do our very best as we face the future, now. With our partnership and God's guidance, I'm confident that we can address the thorniest issues that confront us and successfully face the toughest challenges that lie ahead



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