The rate of growth in your church is based upon, I believe, primarily one thing: are the current members of your church surveyors or prospectors?
The Israelites had a King: God. He spoke through his prophets and priests to the people. However, peer pressure won the day, and the Israelites requested the prophet Samuel to
“appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”1 Samuel 8:5
If you know the story, you know it didn’t work out too well for Saul or the Israelites. During Saul’s reign, God rejected him and sent Samuel to find his eventual replacement. Samuel was led to the home of a man named Jesse. Jesse brought all his sons out one after the other. These weren’t mere boys; these were strong, hardy men. Despite their kingly appearances convincing Samuel one of these guys had to be the future king, God said to Samuel,
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7.
Samuel was surveying. He was evaluating the quality of these men by their surface–by their appearance. If God had allowed Samuel to pick his own future king, he would have chosen poorly and Israel would have continued in their downward trajectory as they had been with Saul.
Finally David was brought in from shepherding, and God informed Samuel that this was to be the future king of Israel.
Jonah was another prophet like Samuel. He was sent to the city of Nineveh to pronounce their doom in forty days for their many sins:
“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.”Jonah 3:4-5
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”3:10
God prospected. He saw the hearts of the Ninevites and the sincerity of their repentance. He looked below the surface for something of value, for the real treasure, for even the faintest glimmer of refined gold. Jonah, however, was a surveyor and saw only their imperfections. He surmised that because the Ninevites were unworthy in his eyes on the surface, they must also be unworthy within.
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”4:1-3
Jonah was such a surveyor, he actually thought it a travesty that God deigned to offer mercy to…well…anyone who failed to meet his personal standards. How dare God be so merciful. If Jonah had his way, an entire city would have been wiped out. Many of those in Nineveh will be in Heaven without a clue that the prophet who came with a warning actually looked forward to their destruction.
How close am I to causing the destruction of someone else’s soul simply because I choose to be a surveyor rather than a prospector? God told Samuel that He, like a prospector, looks below the surface–at the heart–for something of value. What is it God is looking for? What is it within men that God prospects for but I miss entirely because I survey the surface only?
“Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?”2 Corinthians 13:5
“I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”Galatians 2:20
“That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.”Ephesians 3:17
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”Colossians 1:27
“And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”Romans 8:10-11
David was selected by God because He saw the character of His Only Begotten Son within David.
Nineveh was spared upon repentance because God recognized the qualities of His Son alive and well within their hearts.
Yet I stand ready to condemn someone because of their unimportant surface details.
He dresses inappropriately for church.
I saw her New Years Eve Facebook photos.
I heard his foul language.
She’s had an affair.
He’s had a divorce.
She wants drums in church.
He doesn’t tithe.
He believes women should be pastors too.
She has an addiction.
This list is probably endless. At the end of the day, someone’s life, someone’s soul, someone’s walk with God is none of my business. Nowhere in Scripture am I called to convert, convince, or condemn. I am called to do one thing only:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”Mark 16:15
The Gospel is the story of this same prospector God who died eternally but rose nonetheless so I could live eternally with Him if I want. It’s about love. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about mercy.
It’s a new year. I challenge you to
“act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”Micah 6:8
Be a prospector rather than a surveyor.