A young preacher is walking down Main St. of his town. He’s a good-hearted fellow, and he is both humbled and proud of the success they’ve had as a church. From simple beginnings in a friend’s basement, the congregation has since grown into a marvelous facility with multiple services to fit the thousands who attend Sunday morning worship. They’ve seen wonderful growth in every demographic (new babies born regularly doesn’t hurt) as folks of all ages and backgrounds have been attracted to the exciting things happening in this place. The minister can’t help but say a mini prayer of “thank God” for such a blessed ministry.
He strives for “gospel-centric” teachings in his pulpit and studies with care. He condemns so-called “prosperity gospel,” and never even mentions money from the pulpit. As a symbol of appreciation for the significant and various hard work of all, he’d asked church elders to never make his salary any greater than the lowest-paid person on payroll.
He’s (most everyone would agree) just a really good guy.
The development of the entire ministry—building construction, programs, services—is designed with a particular emphasis on excellence. “God cares about the details,” he would say, “so we should too.” Distraction and discomfort were primary problems to be solved—and they’d done everything possible to make sure anyone, whether life-long churchgoers or first-time visitors, would feel comfortable on any given Sunday. Reducing the potential for anxiety or boredom or disinterest was key to preparing hearts for the movement of the Spirit.
He just wanted to reach as many people in his community as possible.
It was just as he was ruminating on some of these things, happy with where his church is headed and considering what strategic steps might be next, when he spotted an unusual stranger ahead on the sidewalk.
It was only as he drew near, he realized it was Jesus himself, right there in his town, on this street, today!
Dumbfounded at first, he fell to his knees, grasping for the right words…
Then awkwardly blurted his somewhat embarrassing, but truly honest question:
“Please tell me. What… really, must I do to be part of your Kingdom?”
Jesus offered the man his hand and helped him to his feet.
“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“But of course, Jesus! I do these things as best I can, and teach the same to my people. But faith is more than just a list of rules, isn’t it? It’s a journey, it’s about grace, and seeking God, right? There is so much disparity among scholars, how can I know the right path?”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go. Sell your church building. Sell the multimedia equipment and the church van and the basketball hoops and the espresso machines and liquidate your church-branded merch. Cancel your marketing contract. Cash out your mutual fund and your endowment and other investments.”
“Then give all to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”
At this the young minister’s face fell. And he went away sad.
Because he just wanted to reach as many people in his community as possible.