Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


It has been over 25 months since my last post. The previous entry indicates a time before our 2017 Sabbatical. Much has taken place in the past two years. We enjoyed a 90 day sabbatical in the summer of 2017. A Lilly Grant enabled us to travel to Ireland, the United Kingdom, New England and the Deep South. Each experience was rich and transformational. In August 2018, we celebrated our tenth anniversary at First Baptist and two of our children have moved to different cities since I last wrote on this blog.

I have been hesitant to come back to this work. The time and energy formerly given to this site has been used in other places. Yet the time seems right. I look forward to posting weekly on this site.

One of the most significant shifts in my life has been our older children leaving home. My wife and I find ourselves creeping toward an empty nest. With our youngest child beginning high school in the fall, a household of two is just around the corner. As with most life transitions, this new reality has both perks and problems. Our life is simpler, less busy as we are down to one child at home. Meals require less food, calendars have fewer evening commitments and the noise level of the house has greatly decreased. On the other hand, I have found myself shaken by the inability to see all of my children safely at home each evening. This is where I come to the topic at hand.

Worry is a fascinating dynamic. We ponder a potential problem, heartache or disaster before it becomes reality. In many cases, we anticipate what will never happen. Jesus addresses this dynamic in Matthew 6.

(Matthew 6:25 NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Jesus seems to be addressing anxiety concerning material provision, food and clothes. Will I have enough to wear, sufficient bread for my family? He then assures us by pointing to the natural world.

(Matthew 6:26 NIV) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

The birds do not worry. They don’t have savings accounts or storage bins. Yet they do not suffer from poverty. God feeds them, cares for them, provides all they need to survive. Jesus then poses a question with an obvious answer. Are we more valuable to God than birds? If we have followed the narrative since Genesis, the answer is clear. We are God’s children, made in His image. He has called us to be a part of His family and has rescued us again and again. Yes! We are more valuable to God than birds. So then, if God takes care of birds, will he not provide for us? Jesus then asks another question.

(Matthew 6:27 NIV) Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Is worry productive? Does it make the situation more likely to resolve in our favor? Can we add even a single hour to our life by worrying? We answer is obvious. No! We cannot improve our condition by worrying.

Jesus’ words leave us embarrassed. Are we not sure of God loves us? Do we think He will not care for us, provide for us? Can’t we trust Him? These verses are both comforting and challenging. On the one hand, we can be certain (like the birds) that God will give us what we need. On the other hand, we must trust Him to do so. And this is where it gets hard for me. I find it much easier to know that God is taking care of my children when they are safe in their bedrooms. But in reality, He is just as much in control when they are hundreds of miles away.

As we consider what this means for discerning churches, the same dynamic is at play. In a world where non-profits are realizing lesser resources each year, where church attendance is dropping, where families are less committed and less involved, worry is a real issue. We must come together around Matthew 6 and hear Jesus’ words afresh. For me, a daily reminder is needed.