[dropcap cap=E]ighty-two percent of people who consider themselves Christians are not involved in any kind of active Kingdom service—according to a survey published by the Barna Research Institute. Apparently, the harvest (ministry opportunities among people) is still plentiful, and the laborers (ministry participants) are still too few (Matthew 9:37). God’s Plan A for reaching the world is to mobilize every Christian (as an active laborer) into every place of human need. But how can He fulfill His plan if fewer than 20% of His people are involved in it? How can He fulfill His plan when more than 80% are spectators?[/dropcap]
When I was nine years old, my parents took my brother, sister, and me to watch a parade on Main Street of my small hometown. My sister and I were old enough to jump on our bicycles and ride ahead of the rest of the family so we could grab a choice spot along the parade route.
There wasn’t a whole lot to the parade. It consisted of makeshift floats, men and women in thrown-together clown outfits, Boy and Girl Scout troops, civic clubs, politicians in freshly waxed cars, the high-school marching band, local fire engines, and police cars.
To be honest, the whole thing was a little boring until a group of my own peers passed by on their decorated bicycles. That caught my attention.
They weren’t really doing anything more than riding their bicycles, but I was thrilled that someone like me had a spot in the parade.
These kids weren’t just sitting on the curbside watching the parade with the rest of us. They were in the parade.
“Mom, those are my friends in the parade!” I shouted.
She immediately replied, “Do you want to join them?”
“I couldn’t do that!” I insisted, assuming the kids in the parade belonged to some special group. My mother knew otherwise. She knew it was a small-budget, open-to-anyone kind of parade.
My heart pounded at the thought of actually getting to be in the parade myself, but I continued a half-hearted protest: “Mom, my bike isn’t decorated like their bikes. My bike is just plain.”
“You don’t need to have it decorated,” she persisted as she picked my bike off the ground. “Go ahead, it’s your chance! Get out there with the rest of your friends! I’ll find you at the end of the parade route.”
“Really? I can really do that?” I asked, looking for one final bit of reassurance.
Then I made the mistake of glancing over at my father, just to be sure. My father is not a risk-taking, parade kind of guy, so he gave me little reassurance. He didn’t have to say anything for me to tell he was concerned. I could plainly see it on his face.
But my mom—who’s very much a risk-taking, parade kind of lady—won out. She grabbed me and walked me into the street.
“It’s okay! Hurry! You’re going to miss out if you don’t get in there,” she said.
I quickly caught up with the rest of my friends and joined the parade.
For the next thirty minutes or so, I savored the too-good-to-be-true reality that I was in the parade! I kept glancing in disbelief at all the spectators to my left and right.
I had the time of my life.
This childhood parade experience has become for me a metaphor for the way most Christians approach life and ministry. Most are sitting on the sidelines, watching the parade go by. They’re content to watch others get involved while they sit in their comfortable seats at a safe distance away from the action.
I’ve come to believe that this is one of the greatest challenges to God’s Plan A for reaching the world: spectators.
Most surveys ever done among people who consider themselves Christians indicate a very high percentage (about 80% on average) have not answered God’s call on their lives to become an active everyday Kingdom laborer.
God’s Plan A for reaching the world is to mobilize every Christian (as an active laborer) into every place of human need. But how can He fulfill His plan if fewer than twenty percent of His people are involved in it?
How can He fulfill His plan when more than eighty percent are spectators?
God wills to extend His grace love, and power to so many more people in the world. But when He looks around to find a willing laborer through which He can express His will, He finds none. There are just not enough active laborers.
The problem isn’t so much that there aren’t enough Christians. The problem is that there aren’t enough Christians who are willing to put their faith into action. Instead, they’re content to be spectators—sitting on the sidelines.
I wonder how God must feel when he sees so many human needs and so few laborers through which to meet them. I wonder if it saddens Him. Frustrates Him. Angers Him.
Scripture tells us Jesus is The Head and we are The Body. The Head continually seeks to communicate with The Body. The Head tells The Body to go over there, say this, or do that, but what happens when The Body isn’t willing to respond?
Far too often, The Body of Christ hasn’t done what The Head wants it to. It’s unresponsive—stuck in self-imposed paralysis—and hasn’t cooperated with what Jesus wants to accomplish through His body.
Many times Jesus wants to speak words of love or encouragement to a hurting or searching person, but His Mouth won’t cooperate.
So often Jesus wants to be close to people across a room, across the street, or even across the world, but His Feet won’t cooperate—they won’t go where He tells them to.
Jesus once held children in His arms and blessed them. Today, He still wants to pick up and hold children, but His Arms won’t cooperate. Jesus loving and healing hands reached out to touch and serve so many people all along the way, but today His Hands, though they are many, are far too tied up with earthly cares to responsively be His Hands ever-extended to a world in need.
The music group Casting Crowns sang it this way in their song “If We Are the Body:”
[important title=If We Are the Body]But if we are the bodyWhy aren't His arms reaching?Why aren't His hands healing?Why aren't His words teaching?And if we are the bodyWhy aren't His feet going?Why is His love not showing them there is a way?There is a way.[/important]
Why? Because The Body isn’t obeying The Head.
Jesus must far too often feel like He has a quadriplegic Body.
What happens when so little of The Body actively obeys Jesus? Think about it for a moment. How does it affect the world? What are the consequences?
Well, for starters, those in the active twenty percent of The Body are prone to burn out—even though fulfilling their ministry calling should be an incredible source of joy and purpose. Why? Because they see so much need around them and try to do too much by themselves. They try to overcompensate for the inactive and unengaged part of Christ’s Body.
On the flip side, the other dormant eighty percent miss out on the joy and sense of purpose that only comes when we respond to the promptings of Christ our Head and become His involved Body in active, daily, Kingdom service. Exhilaration and blessing comes from being a heart on fire and a life on purpose! I love the motto of famous missionary Jim Elliot, “He is no fool to give up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
However, the most disturbing consequence is that a lot of Kingdom work doesn’t get done because people need an involved Christian near their life to notice their needs and reach out to them with the love of Christ. But too often, while Jesus sees their need, hears their cry for help, and wants to do something about it, His Body won’t move.
Countless people in towns and cities everywhere turn every direction but have no clear life direction. Neighborhoods are filled with lonely people. Offices buildings, factories, and small businesses are filled with unhappy and searching employees. There are streets filled with homeless and hungry people. Around the world right now, there are orphanages filled with unwanted children. There are homes filled with single parents who are trying to raise their children without spouses. There are schools filled with students who don’t feel like they measure up to their peers. There are bars filled with people trying to numb themselves to their loneliness and pain.
And, at the same time, there are churches filled with people who are content to do nothing about the needs around them. Christ’s quadriplegic body must grieve the heart of God.
A fully-functioning Body is critical to God’s Plan A for reaching the world.
When I picked up my bike and joined the parade all those years ago, I had the time of my life. My sister, on the other hand, let her fear keep her from getting into the action.
What about you? Are you involved or sitting on the sidelines? Are you in or out?
It’s time to grab your bike, get on it, and join the parade. Here’s the deal: The parade is passing by only once. What are you waiting for? There aren’t more parades coming! This is it. You can’t go back and reclaim a missed opportunity.
It’s not the same to just talk about the parade. It’s not the same to just watch, listen, read about, and vicariously live through the ministry lives of others.
Being a spectator is not God’s calling on your life! His Plan A for reaching the world includes your involvement.
Come on. Grab your bike.
Join the parade!
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