There are not enough hours in the day. We are overwhelmed with responsibilities, with commitments, with after school practices and games, with what we call life. But I want you to take a step back and think with me for a moment. I want you to clear your head of all those responsibilities and duties and commitments. If you didn’t have anything that you had to do, what would be your priorities? What would you focus on first? What would take up your day? Take a few minutes and, if you can, write them down. Now I want you to do one more visualization exercise. I want you to, in your head, drive around the streets of your community. And in your mind’s eye, I want you to ask, “Where would Jesus like His church to make a difference?” Look for the things that show signs of needs being unmet that are likely captured in your subconscious. Things like playgrounds which are overgrown or where equipment is in poor condition, children playing in the street because they don’t have any place safer to play, houses which are in disrepair, schools which look like they can use a helping hand, community centers which look dirty or dangerous or both, and other such obvious places should come to mind first. But then take the time to look a little deeper. Look at where the folks are hanging out and what they are doing. Look into their eyes and see if they’ve lost hope. Look at the clothes they have and the physical shape they are in. Are they getting nutritious meals? Are they dressed appropriately for the weather? Do their clothes look like they’ve seen better days? Write these things down, too.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, NIV
It is real easy to say, “I can’t.” But most of the time when we say, “I can’t,” what we really should be saying is, “I won’t.” I’m just as guilty as anyone else with respect to this. And I use the same reasons (excuses) as most other folks. Things like, “I’d love to help, but my schedule won’t permit it,” or, “My son just got braces and money is a little tight,” and if I’m really pressed, I may come back with, “I’m already doing my part, can’t someone else pick up the slack?” But then I am haunted by a question my associate pastor asked a number of months ago, “If our church closed its doors, how long would it be before the community really noticed?” That question reveals the weakness in all of those excuses. That question casts the light of Christ on how pitiful the excuses are. So why aren’t we doing what we should be doing in our communities?
The most common reason is simple busyness. We get caught up in life and as things come in we just add them to the schedule. It’s like the case where you have large rocks, pebbles, and sand to put into a container. Except we get them in all no particular order. So a lot of times we’ve put a long of sand and a lot of small rocks in our container and when we start putting the big rocks in, they don’t fit. It’s because we’ve not organized things properly. If we had it all to do it right, we’d put the big rocks in first, carefully pour the pebbles in as we shook the container, and then follow suit with the sand. That way everything fits. We have to periodically do this with life, too. We have to re-assess our priorities, our activities, and where we spend our time and resources. By doing so, we will likely find that we can fit in the things we care about. And we’ll also likely find things that we shouldn’t be wasting our time on, too. This is thinking bigger.
Not only should we be doing this as individuals, but we should carry out similar assessments at our churches, too. Remember all those things you wrote down? What if everyone did that and then came together to discuss what the needs of the community were? What if the leadership of the individual church had all of this information when trying to decide how best to direct the church’s outreach? This would give them specific things to pray over and seek God about, things they might not have seen with their own eyes. Wouldn’t this help make our efforts fruitful and relevant to our community? This is another example of thinking bigger.
But it goes beyond that. The churches in Macedonia didn’t have much. They were suffering. If anything, they should have been the ones receiving aid. But they didn’t let their lack of resources stop them. They found a way to help fellow churches. Why? Because they wanted to serve. They wanted to be part of the body of Christ, supporting the rest of the body of Christ. They didn’t let what they were lacking be a limitation. And this should be our example, too. God has an amazing way of providing what is needed when we trust Him in where He calls us to serve. This is true as individuals and it is true as part of the larger Church. If you had the ability to re-write your calendar, you know you’d make adjustments. But if you go a step further, after considering the needs of the community and prayerfully taking them before God, how would your calendar look then? How would your activities and involvement change? This, too, is thinking bigger.
Now here’s a little secret: we can change our calendars. Some things we have to slot in to certain times, for right now. For instance, if your job requires you to be at work during a certain portion of the day, Monday through Friday, you have to be there. That doesn’t stop you from preparing for the next job with more flexibility. It doesn’t stop you from going in and talking with HR and your boss if your job allows a flexible work schedule. So even seemingly static commitments can change. This is thinking bigger. It feels safe to keep the same-old, same-old. I know, because I feel the same way. But does the same-old, same-old feel you with the overflowing joy that the people of the Macedonian churches experienced? If you’re like me, that question about the church closing its doors, carefully considered, will fill you with dread. That’s really what the same-old, same-old gives us. I don’t want dread. I want joy. No, I want overflowing joy. Time to think bigger.