“You know what the church needs? It needs….”
Over the years, I have heard, literally, hundreds of endings to that sentence. It seems that almost everyone has an idea regarding what they think the church should be or do. Interestingly, I do not recall anyone mentioning the one thing that God mentions more than 25 times.
This one thought is found throughout God’s Word as he deals with His people over hundreds of years. What does God think the church needs?
Listen to his words, in the form of a command, from the book of Hebrews: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8, 15).
What if our biggest need is not a bunch of new programs, or new ways of doing things? What if our biggest need is to have hearts that are soft and usable? This applies in at least two areas.
First, we need hearts that are soft to the things of God. What would happen if we really were open and teachable? What if we listened to God’s Word and actually respond to it? What would happen if the things that mattered to God really mattered to me as well?
The danger here is that the things of God can become so common that we simply take them for granted. In Hebrews 3, the writer reminds his readers that their forefathers witnessed things like the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7 to 12), the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and the way he looked after and fed them every day (Exodus 16 and 17), yet they still did not honour God. It is easy to become hardened and not see the blessings of God.
Secondly, we need hearts that are soft to other people. Hebrews 3 goes on to say, “See to it, brothers, that none of you have a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (verses 12 and 13).
It is easy to be critical. It is easy to be “hardened” to others and their circumstances. (“They got themselves in that situation. They can get themselves out!”). However, when we encourage others, our outlook changes. Everyone needs, likes and responds to encouragement. Everyone needs someone to notice them. Everyone needs someone in their corner.
Maybe “What the church needs…” is a group of people whose hearts are soft and responsive.
Maybe, if God had a place to work in us, all our other “problems” would be looked after.