The world looks at the Christian Church and sees nothing more than another of many religions which tells me that something is wrong. The world should look at the Church and see Jesus Christ. The problem isn't with a method, a program or approach; the problem is with me. It's with you too but let's start with me and go from there.
As I examine my heart I must begin with the question of "What is my motivation?" Why do I do what I do? Why do I worship? Why do I submit myself to God's will? Why do I breathe every day? Why do I bother living at all? Why do I believe? If I can answer these questions in truth and the answer is "... because Jesus Christ loves me", then a number of things have to change. Lets start with priorities.
If the love of Christ is my motivation for breathing, living, doing, being then his priorities must become my priorities. The Apostle Paul expressed this when explaining why he had to do what he did:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Christ's love compels us. There is no other motivation. Our love and compassion do not last but God's love and compassion are for eternity. When we are convinced that Jesus demonstrated God's love on the cross we know that the only way to demonstrate our love for him is to give up what once we were and give our lives to him, in love and service. Our motivation in everything we do becomes Jesus Christ. His priorities become our priorities and his priority is people. This fire burns in us, is all we can think about and everything else that tries to grab our attention falls away.
When Jesus' disciples returned to find Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman they didn't ask any questions but after she was gone they urged him to eat. It is here that we see Jesus' passion for the lost. He told them he had food they knew nothing about. Some of you know exactly what he was referring to but the disciples did not understand and would not understand for some time. They could not understand that Jesus was in the middle of saving an entire town through one conversation with one lost and confused woman. They could not understand that this thing he was in the middle of doing was all the food he needed right now. Jesus said to them:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)
"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Imagine if that was our motivation every morning when we woke up? Imagine if that was the core purpose of our churches. Imagine if every Christian had this as their motivation because they were compelled by the love of Jesus Christ? What would your day look like? What would mine look like? Perhaps a lot less "doing" and a lot more relationship. Perhaps we would lose a lot of the trivial in our day and gain a lot more interaction in people's lives. Maybe there would be a lot less of being offended and lot more grace and forgiveness. Maybe a lot less of me and a lot more of Jesus and those he died for.
Jesus told his disciples to "open your eyes and look at the fields"; the fields being those who have been prepared for salvation. Jesus looked around and he saw a people lost without a shepherd. He saw a people who had been victimized by the lies of the enemy. He saw a people longing for something they did not understand so they were filling that longing with all the wrong things. You can't tell me that there was anything religious about Jesus but you can see in his everyday interaction with people that there is something very relational about him. He didn't preach to people but instead explained the truth to them and he did it with an authority that amazed people. He demonstrated the power of God through acts of compassion that broke all the rules of this natural world but the basis for it was the salvation of the world.
The world looks at us and sees another religion that just wants to control people. It sees a religion that tries to offer hope to a desperate people. It sees nonsense. It sees professionalism. It sees well defined community programs. It sees large buildings. It sees a lot of things instead of seeing the Christ, the one who died for everyone so that everyone could experience the Father's love. The only way they will see this is if I (and everyone else in the Church) die with Jesus so that my life would glorify him. We have to become fools for Jesus; fools according to this world. They may see us as fools but they will know that our love for Jesus and for them is genuine. Only being convinced about Jesus' love can move us into the realm of radical faith, trust and action. Wow, does the world ever need to see radical followers of Christ right now.
Yes, it starts with me and it must start with me everyday as I surrender my will and my priorities to him and allow my motivation to be nothing more than the love of Christ. I have to be willing to live big and small, with the authority of Jesus, in the lives of complete strangers as well as familiar family. Jesus' loves compels me to make people my first priority in my day, over all other activities and desires. The priority is the harvest and our food is doing the will of the Father. When this becomes our passion the world will again see Jesus every time it looks upon the Church. Jesus above all things in our life and day! and then the harvest.