Recovering ReverenceBy Dan Hammer
September 14, 2021
Church planting is often as paradoxical as it is prescriptive. Articles are composed, classes are taught, books are written, trainings are published, and blogs are posted about the proper playbook to plant a culture-altering and life-impacting church. However, lying beneath the surface of these pragmatic strategies is a paradoxical heart level tug-of-war that, if not properly tended to in the heart of the planter and foundation of the church, could prove deadly over time, destroying both the planter and the church.
On the battlefield of the pastor’s heart, these paradoxes square off in a daily bout so fierce it rivals a heavyweight prize fight, but this time with eternal consequences. Often, a pastor wrestles daily with desires to both achieve and abide, be humble yet bold, to walk and to wait, to lead and listen, and to be relevant and reverent. While some of these paradoxes are complementary and kingdom-advancing biblical principles, others are the dividing fault line between a church that is God glorifying and one that is crashing and burning. The intense wrestling match in our hearts between the pursuit of cultural relevance and Christ-centered reverence has been a hot topic of late as an autopsy of the rise and fall of a previously prominent church is being performed for hopefully not just public consumption, but also our own heart investigation and transformation. It has served to shine a much needed light into the hardest-to-reach places of my own heart as the Holy Spirit has revealed places where I have previously pursued relevance over reverence and has brought me to life-giving repentance.
Culture and circumstances come and go as they continually change and evolve. However, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). For that reason and so many more, as we plant and pastor churches, and multiply disciples in our homes, neighborhoods, and the nations, it is vitally important to never sacrifice reverence on the altar of relevance. Unfortunately, far too often, pastors and church planters might say the right things, but an autopsy of the heart will find them seeking their own relevance more than prioritizing giving Christ reverence. The slippery slope that happens when we start maximizing ourselves and minimizing our Savior as we buy into the bombastic and blatant lie that we are a big deal instead of remembering that Jesus is the only real deal, is as steep as it is deep. It creates damage that is catastrophic and collateral. We can’t continue to say our church is all about Jesus while making it all about us. May we never promote our brand more than the Bible.
The world yells at us to be relevant while God’s Word commands us to be reverent. Which is your primary pursuit today? The Great Commission flows out of the Great Commandment. Worship fuels mission. When you choose to live irreverently, it’s only a matter of time until you are irrelevant. God won’t be mocked, and the Creator won’t share any of His glory with the created.
Today, instead of fighting the losing battle to maintain relevance, we must recapture reverence and concentrate the passions of our heart and the priorities of our hands more on being holy than on being hip. We must trust the biblical reality that when we are faithful, God makes us fruitful.
Here are three steps to recovering and maintaining our reverence:
What delights you drives you. David instructs us to, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act” (Ps. 37:4-5). The command to us is to delight ourselves in the Lord, and the result of that action is God giving us the desires of our hearts. We so often get this backwards. We make our worship and delight in God contingent on God giving us what we want. That’s not how it works. We are to first delight in who God is continually to us, rather than placing contingencies on our worship to God based on what He does or doesn’t do for us. Our delight must not be in the size of our churches, but in the size of our God. Our delight must not be in the grandeur of our personal platform, but in the greatness of God’s promises. Our delight must not be in our flippant followers on social media, but in the constant faithfulness of our God. May we always delight in the Creator more than the created, that we may be empowered to live a life of reverence in a world that propagates relevance.
We can’t do God’s supernatural work in our natural strength, but we sure try, don’t we? How often do our lips say Jesus is the one who builds His church, but our hearts believe He probably couldn’t do it without us? Jesus declares, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). What a promise and a proclamation. When we remain in, connected to, and dependent upon God, we will bear not just some fruit, but much fruit. That fruit might not ever mean you break the 200-attendance mark, but it does mean that through your faithfulness and the power of the Gospel, God will change lives, transform families, and alter communities. It’s also true that when we seek independence from God, even as we work in the church of God, we will bear no fruit for God. That is a reality that is as startling as it is stunning. A life of reverence to God is demonstrated through our dependence on God.