It’s amazing to think back a few years and reflect on what God has done with Venture. Ready to close the doors permanently, God picked his church up out of the dust, swept us off, gave us a new name and identity, and helped us sense his greater calling and vision not only for our church, but for our community and the world within our reach.
We experienced some exciting things in 2016, and saw our numbers grow in amazing ways. But as we head into 2017, I want to caution us about some false flags and shed some light on just where we’re to go from here.
As I’ve said before, we can celebrate the people that God has brought in to call Venture home. He’s rejuvenated our ranks with Christ-followers ready to serve. A church should always celebrate when God adds workers to the fields of harvest. Although we celebrate, we have to remember that adding people who already know Jesus to our church family is not our calling. If God brings in 150 more new workers in 2017, we can rejoice, but should also be wary of the danger that addition would pose.
What danger? Comfort. As we grow, our finances stabilize, volunteers are added to thinly staffed ministries, and more hands carry the load. Perhaps we start to feel like a normal church again. There may be some good in that, but God’s intention for Venture was never that we’d grow into a “normal church,” (whatever that is).
God’s call for us is the same call he gives his disciples at the end of Matthew: “Go into all the world, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I’ve commanded you.” Unless we are a church actively and intentionally making disciples of those who don’t yet know Jesus, we’re not doing what God has called us to do. We may grow content with paid bills and full worship services, all the while forsaking the far greater call and reward of obeying God.
In recent years, God has healed a weary and broken bride. He’s rejuvenated our people, identity, campus, and vision. He has called willing servants into the field of ministry. He’s grown me as a leader and shown me how far I’ve yet to grow. He’s equipping disciples for ministry and putting structures and strategies in place that will help us move toward his vision for Venture. He has done mighty things, and now he is calling us to respond in obedience, trusting Jesus to complete the work he began in us.
So where do we go from here? We go to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Let’s be honest, the vision he’s given us is impossible. Unless we trust Jesus to do the work to which he’s called us, we will fail. Our church might get bigger as Christians move in from out of town or look for a new place to call home. Our budget might improve. We might hire more staff or add more volunteers. We might have more Bible studies and weeknight meetings. From all human perspectives, it might appear as though we’re a successful church, but all the while we’d be failing to do the work Jesus has for us.
So here’s to a year of growth. Not necessarily growth in numbers, but growth in spiritual maturity as we desperately depend upon the Holy Spirit. I, for one, believe the latter must precede the former. If we’re to grow in numbers by winning the lost to Christ, we must first grow closer to Jesus. His burden is easy.