We like a lot of options, don’t we? When building a new house or buying a new car or even a new computer, you find yourself facing all kinds of great options. So you spend some time imagining all the possibilities and put together an idea of what you really want. Then you have to ask the question, “What is this going to cost?” When the salesperson looks at you with dollar signs in their eyes, you know it’s going to be expensive. Then you have to decide. Can I afford it? What do I have to give up?
It’s no different when trying to grow the church. While teaching about becoming a disciple, Jesus made the same comparison in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Jesus taught that following him has a cost, that some might lose their families and that others might lose their lives (Luke 14:25). When it comes to becoming a follower of Jesus and growing his church and we ask the question, “What is this going to cost?” the answer could be: everything.
We have held a couple of meetings where several people gathered to brainstorm ideas of what we can do to grow as a church. We’ve shared all kinds of ideas, from starting new programs for children and families to changing our worship services to hiring a youth minister. We have been dreaming big, and when we get to the point of making some decisions, we have been asking, “What is this going to cost?” And then there’s a pause. In fact, we’re still paused, because we’re still thinking about the cost.
For some of us, the cost of beginning a 9:00 Sunday school program for children will be giving up our own Sunday school class or coming to the building an hour earlier than when we usually arrive for worship at 10:00. For others, the cost might be giving up the way we like to worship or the time we like to worship. For most of us, the cost will be giving up things with which we are familiar and comfortable.
And as we consider the cost, we’re going to start asking, “Is it worth it?” The stark reality is this: when we ask whether it’s worth it to make changes in the church, we’re really weighing the differences between life and death. Is it worth losing what I like for the sake of someone else’s eternal life? Am I willing to let this church die for the sake of my own personal preferences?
Jesus prompted similar questions about following him when he taught these parables in Matthew 13:44-46:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
I pray that each of us would consider the value of what we have as the body of Christ and agree that we would be willing to give up everything for the sake of sharing what we have through this church.
I should say that there have been no decisions made about where we’re going or how we’re going to get there – we’re still trying to figure out “who we are” – it’s going to take time. However, make no mistake: change is going to happen, whether we make it happen or let it happen to us. As you think about what we can do to reach our community for Jesus, count the cost and consider the words of the missionary Jim Elliott who was killed taking the Gospel to the native people of Ecuador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”