Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Best for His Glory

There was a devotional book called My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  I recall many years ago that I was given a copy though now when I looked for it, I could not find it.  Perhaps it is at home.  The title is the thing that has stuck with me over the years.  It correlates to the very last words from Take My Life and Let It Be... Ever, only, all for Thee.  These are great words but the kind of words that we struggle with.

Our best for His glory should be the unwritten motto that is behind all we do as individual Christians and as the Church.  I will leave it to other to write on the side that focuses on the individual Christian and want to address the part that relates to the Church.

As the Church and as individual churches we tend to live almost exclusively in the realm of what is expedient instead of what is best.  We deal with what works more than what we should or ought to do.  I do not mean this as a terrible indictment against everything we do.  At times what is expedient or what works is the best that can be done.  What bothers is me is that we no longer tend to even think about what might be best.  Whether we are putting a new roof on the church or picking out an organ or choosing a hymn or whatever, we seem to be farther and farther removed from what is best and we seem to be more and more content to live within the realm of what is reasonable, what is expedient, and what will work.

As long as we focus on what is expedient without even considering what might be best, we will be left with unsatisfactory fixes, with disappointing results, and with decisions that must be made over and over again.  Now I am not suggesting that we do nothing unless or until we can do what is best.  We live in a sinful world where the best is not always within our reach.  But we ought to at least know what is the best route even when we choose to do what is expedient.  We must never lose sight of this tension.

A few years ago my air conditioning went out in our home.  The repair man told us that it was the start of something that would eventually lead to a complete replacement.  At the time the prospect of spending $5000 was impossible on the budget.  So he worked on finding a computer board that would fit the unit and in the meantime jerry rigged the unit so that we could run it by manually turning it on and off (without the use of the thermostat).  So for weeks I set my alarm and went down to turn it on to cool down the house and then set it again to turn it off after an hour or two.  And we did this all day long, as well.  And the board came eventually and the unit worked flawlessly for a few years.  I knew it was not the best decision but it was the best we could do at the time.  This past summer it went completely and I shelled out the money for a completely new system -- even though he offered me a cheaper fix without any guarantees.  This time the best was the only real choice.

I have sat through countless church council and congregational meetings over a span of some 32 years and I have only fleeting memories of the occasional times when we actually discussed what was the best choice even though we could not make that choice at the moment.  I have only a couple of memories when we saw what was the best decision and went for it with the conviction that we could do nothing less.

When it comes to buildings, art, music, worship, Sunday school, etc... we often make expedient decisions that are not our best but they work for the moment.  The problem is that we no longer admit this is not our best, we no longer seek a way to the best, and we feel no hesitance in choosing the expedient way as our first choice.  I wonder if this is not part of the reason it is so hard to recruit new church leaders.  We have diminished what we do by living so comfortably within the realm of what will work or what will get us by.

Sadly, the churches that are involved in church growth (both the movement and the music) seem to try harder to get what they think is the best.  While the churches that we might call traditional, have largely given up the expectation of our best for His glory no matter what the cost.  Now I do not think that the you have to be a church growth congregation for you to seek the best for God's glory nor do I think that being a "traditional" congregation presumes you seek what works before you consider what is best.

I wonder if it is a result of time and history... the older the congregation, the longer you have a congregation, the harder it is to raise the expectation, to dream and seek the dreams, to settle for nothing less than the best.  It occurs to me that where congregations need to be revitalized has a lot to do with this expectation.  If we could figure out a prescription how to renew the drive and desire for our best for His glory, that in and of itself would assist the rejuvenation of the the congregation's perspective on worship, mission, and service.

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