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Saturday, November 03, 2007


While traveling this past week, I listened to a recorded sermon called "Ten Shekels and a Shirt" by Paris Reidhead (mp3 and text). One part that especially stood out to me was an exchange with a Chinese Christian who had visited America. Someone at home asked the man, "What impressed you most about America?" The man replied, "The great things Americans can accomplish without God."

It was this same week that I read of Bill Hybel's repentance over Willow Creek's ministry approach and his desire to confess, repent, and redirect as God would lead them. And this, arguably the most "successful" of American churches! What will Willow look like more fully in God's strength?!

I've got just enough drive, determination, and talent to be dangerous. If I keep my nose to the grindstone and pour myself into ministry, it looks pretty good by any worldy (or even "Christian") standard. I am enthusiastic about Good Shepherd and what is going on here. But I have also been aware of a kind of "ceiling" in terms of energy, blessing, multiplication, etc... This recognition has been rolling around in my heart for some time now, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I heard "10 Shekels".

I don't think Good Shepherd is "without God," but I do think we are doing a lot on our own steam, talents, energy, etc... And I think God would have me and throw myself wholly into His arms... and lead the congregation in doing so. What is missing? It is not creativity, drive, organization, volunteers, programs, or even solid teaching. But what is missing is me prostrating myself before the Lord of the Church and recognizing that unless the Lord builds it - every single brick of it - I labor in vain. What is missing is my utter dependence on the strength of the Lord shining through my weakness. And if I wonder about the congregation discovering this reality, it needs to start first with me.

Why put this in a blog? I have shared this with the church in the newsletter, in sermons, in conversation, and want to share it on the blog that others might be convicted and encouraged... and to hold me accountable. Any of you who know me (and even those who don't) - ask me how I'm doing. Will I move forward, as Matt Redman sings, facedown before the Lord?

Let it be so.


Presbyterian Gal said...

I was really encouraged to read of what happened at Willow Creek. What an inspiration that will be to so many churches!

And your courage in what you're doing at Good Shepherd will no doubt be richly blessed.

robert austell said...

Thanks, PG! I can't imagine what maturity it took for Bill Hybels to put the brakes on the program model at Willow Creek. Thanks for your encouragement.

will said...

Thanks for posting this. I think you are spot on in terms of what is missing, and why we often don't quite get it right - though we can still look impressive to outside observers.

I was also very pleased by Hybels's action on this.

regressivepresby said...

Had our first prayer meeting exactly along these lines Tuesday evening, in our sanctuary. Being at the end of one's rope, apparently, isn't a bad thing as far as our Lord is concerned.

thanks Robert...

Chris said...

May you find sufficient weaknesses to let that all-sufficient grace shine through. You and your church are in for one heaven of a ride!

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