Paul’s “big hairy audacious goal” for believers

We really want to believe Christianity is about “go big or go home.” We really do. We say it “isn’t about the numbers”… but it’s exactly about the numbers. In church circles we figure out other ways to say, “How many ya runnin’?” without saying exactly that, but still shaming pastors who aren’t in that “big gun” territory.

So, we talk about Big Hairy Audacious Goals… and it’s always about numbers.

We talk about dreaming big… and it’s always about numbers.

Paul has the Thessalonians “dream big.” He tells them to “set goals.” Here it is:

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thess. 4:11-12)

Well, that won’t preach!

No wonder we like “big hairy audacious goals” that can be measured… in numbers…

How do you measure influence? How do you measure that other BHAG goal Paul had of knowing Christ?

Get real. Those can’t but quantified on annual reports.

I can’t quantify on my annual church report the couple who is raising wonderful kids to know Christ. I can’t quantify the impact of a family that hosts international students every year in their home, quietly influencing them with Kingdom values.

There is no BHAG quantifier that measures a developmentally disabled adult who was scared to death to be in community with a church because of past issues and is now someone who feels like they are “home.”

A few weeks ago we said our farewells to a lady who worked quietly in our church. Her last few years were spent volunteering in our office making phone calls to people who never knew her by sight (because she couldn’t make it on Sunday morning so I could count her for my BHAG quantifying annual report) but they knew her voice. There is no quantifying the multiplying effect she had in lifting up others with kind words, keeping them in prayer, and helping people who didn’t like each other learn to get along.

But she lived out what Paul was saying and at her memorial outsiders as well as “insiders” boasted of her quiet life lived to the glory of God.

REMEMBER: You may not be called to go win China. You may just need to live in holiness before God so the neighbor next door sees some powerful reality of Christ he wouldn’t see any other way.

Go live boldly.

Talk about big hairy audacious goals!

Latch on to these words of hope

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thess. 5:23-24, NRSV)

The work God has started in you will be complete. He alone is the One who sanctifies you entirely.

And he is able.

We serve the One who is faithful.

God’s Best is Not Always What We Have in Mind

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 4:3-8, NIV)

The biggest issue in discipleship is moving away from what we think God prohibits to understanding that what God wants is our best. That means we may not get all of what we “wanted” from our old life, or what our culture may be offering up. God doesn’t have our misery in mind. He has our best in mind.

But we battle. And it’s not just cultural norms or what we perceive to be “legalism” within the church. Sometimes we forget we really do battle against principalities and powers.

As I study and pray, what I find is it’s not “cultural wars” we battle. There are strongholds within every culture and those strongholds guard the territory, so to speak. There are a few beasts who jealously guard our culture and make sure we stay in bondage.

One is consumerism/materialism. The other is sex. (Of course, we could talk about more.)

So, for me, the “cultural war” issues are not the real issues. They are symptoms of the larger beasts who jealously guard this territory. Their job may not be to make us utterly “pagan,” but their job IS to make sure we don’t see God’s best for our lives.

We have settled in our lives when we have statements like, “I don’t see what’s wrong with it.” Or, “God wants me happy.” And we have no idea what God’s best for us really is in our lives. I refer to Christians in that context, of course.

Friends, we need to move past what feeds the beasts of this culture and realize we are called to please God. NOT because he is a demanding ogre like the beasts that guard our culture, but because he has our best in view.

God’s will is holy living. His best for us needs be in full view.

The Incredible Love of the Church

8 We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much. (1 Thess. 2:8, CEB)

Before we moved to Minneapolis we lived for a few years in Colorado. I was working outside the church at the time. The church we attended was fairly large and after a time we were able to host a small group. That group was one of the most caring groups of people I have ever been a part of in life and ministry. They renewed my foundational hope and belief in the Body of Christ. They deepened my love for the Church.

It was the kind of group that met and I could throw out a passage of Scripture and we would be off to the races for the rest of the evening. No prodding. No leading questions. We would read the passage (we went through the Gospel of Mark at the time) and then we would dive into the text. Questions were flying. Observations were being made. We would wrestle with the issues of the text. We would wrestle with what was being said and the implications for our lives.

We truly loved each other. We had two single moms in the group and when they needed to move from an apartment to a house, or from one apartment to another, we were all in. We simply said, “Next week is moving week for Lisa. Everyone show up over there.” And we did. All of us. No excuses.

The church we were all a part of was fairly large and it had a Christian school. The director was a friend of mine from college and he was moving from an apartment to a home one weekend. The whole church knew about it for weeks. I let him know I would be there to help. The day of the move, after weeks of announcing it to the entire church, I showed up… along with two teenage girls. We weren’t going to get much moving done.

I told my friend, “I think we can do better than this.”

I made two phone calls to some guys in our home group and in under an hour we had six people show up and start hauling. My friend was blown away.

“It’s what we do for each other.”

The time came where we sensed the Lord was moving us back into ministry. What was becoming painfully clear at that time was some things we were praying about for ministry in Colorado just were not going to happen. Doors were closing in jobs and the Lord was making it obvious that something was going to change.

I was trying to scrape together jobs as I was searching for a church. Money was tight.

One night in our home group the group let us know they had paid our rent for the month ahead.

We know God is leading you away. It’s not our favorite idea in the world, but we sense it’s God. We don’t want you to make a move out of desperation. We know you need money for rent, so we want to give you a little more time so you make the right move.”

And, of course, the day we moved, every one of them showed up to pack our truck.

It’s what we do for each other.”

Their incredible love and generosity allowed us to hear more clearly from God and has put us in our current place of ministry. That was 15 years ago and I will never forget their incredible love and care.

The Church is about love for one another. It is about care. It is about seeing God’s best happen in each other’s lives.

I get to see that every week in the church we pastor now, and I carry with me the wonderful thought that a group of incredibly loving people in Colorado helped launch us back into ministry. We knew we were not going to be together again, but our deep love for each other, and our desire to see God’s best in each others lives carried us to do extraordinary things.

Reading this Week

For our church, we are reading Acts and 1-2 Thessalonians this week. As you read, reflect on the love and care the Body of Christ has for each other. Reflect on what it means to look out for God’s best in the lives of others.