Who Is The Kingdom Of God Investing In?
As I watch the current London Olympics unfolding, I see that the countries who are willing to finance their sports and invest in their athletes are on top of the leader board. In spite of what the Olympics would like to present as their image of world competition for all countries, those with great political power look at the Olympics as a way to show case their dominance and power, even in athletics. “Winning the gold” is the only viable goal for them. Losing a swim meet by .01 of a second to earn a second is “losing”! One of the images of this Olympics that will stick in my mind was an interview with a girl who lost by .01 and thought she failed her coach, her family, and her country.
A commercial for an upcoming television program for this fall had Shawn Johnson, an ex-gymnastic Olympian in a small group session where she is accused of being a “loser” because she has more silver medals than gold. She reminds them she is a “winner” because she won a gold medal. The group accuses her of being in denial! That is the American attitude going into the Olympics: world domination.
When Germany was a major power, their Olympic teams were powerful. In my lifetime the USA/Russian Cold War Battle was often fought on the medal leader board of the Olympics since there were no physical combat battlefields due to the fear of a nuclear war. Eastern Block Germany tried to show its dominance over free Western Germany to the point that their women were growing mustaches and then rejected by drug testing in an effort to get the needed advantage to win gold. Today China, Russian, and the USA are still on top of the leader board politically and athletically.
The climax of the Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympics was the March of Nations, 204 strong! Most of those nations have never won an Olympic Medal in their history nor are expected to win one, yet they still participate with pride! They have no “Dream Teams” of “Fabulous Five” as the USA, but just being there competing is a dream come true for them.
There is a direct correlation between investment and results at these games. Those countries willing to financially invest in their athlete’s training get results on the Medal Count. I have to stop and ask the question: What investment is the Church placing in advancing the Kingdom of God and what have been the results? Who is the church investing in? How much of your church budget goes into “Laity Development”, or Christian Development? What is the out come of that investment? Ephesians 4 challenges the church to “equip the saints for the work of service”. How much of your church budget goes toward “saint equipping”? Most budgets are heavily weighted by staff salaries and benefits, building maintenance, administrative costs, benevolences, and missions, but only a small percentage goes toward “developing” or “equipping” the local “saints”, the pew sitters, the laity for the work of service, the life stream of the local church.
A current trend in America is to send their senior pastors and pastoral staff to “leadership” conferences. It has become “professional development” opportunities like any other profession. “Camp Meetings”, which were a ground swell of grass root believer participation, are almost ancient history now. Unless one plans to get formal education at a Bible College or earn some college degree in religion in order to make the “ministry” their vocational profession, it is hard to find educational opportunities for just the laity to be used at the local level.
Equipping the saints to replace the professional clergy locally is not looked upon as a viable option today, but equipping the saints to become the professional clergy is acceptable. What are we “equipping” the “saints” to actually do, I ask? How are they fairing in the Olympic events of life? Is the church “setting the standard”, raising the bar, shooting for “the gold medal”, or is the church allowing sports, nationalism, local culture, traditionalism, etc. to trump their efforts and effectiveness. To the “world” is the Church beginning to look like a Third World Nation of insignificant power and resources compared to Islam, Hindu, Buddahism, atheism, and other Eastern Religions? I see Islam’s current “investment” in their believers in the Middle East and the increase of its influence on the world stage, but what about the Church’s investment in their believers and its influence. The Church’s Christian influence in the United States and Europe over the last half century is diminishing. The other major religions of the world have been penetrating and influencing what has been considered Christian nations.
The Church will only regains its power, its influence, its energy for evangelism, pastoral care, having a teachable spirit, prophetic insight, and apostolic vision as it is willing to “equip”, “train”, and “develop” its believers, the saints.
The Olympics is about the nations of the world coming together in political peace to perform combative athletics to “win” gold, silver, or bronze. The key to success, measured in preparation, investment, training, and support, produces the dividends wanted. The Church needs to prepare, invest in, train, and support its laity, the saints if it wishes to “advance the kingdom of God” forward in peace, power, and influence to change the world.