I presented an after-school Bible club program at a local church. The presentation included a three minute video. The pastor said he could spare 60 seconds for me to speak in addition to the video. He explained he would love to dedicate an entire service to the ministry, but he did not have time. He had another missionary sharing, and the service was already rushed. I had 60 seconds to effectively present the program.
How do you reach a busy world with the Gospel? Talk faster? Alter the message? To reach an energy drink-driven, drive-thru world, you must offer them an alternative to the non-stop pace of everyday life. Church is not another activity tacked onto an already busy week. It is a place that welcomes you to rest—God’s rest.
Energy drinks sport flashy designs to catch your attention as you browse the grocery store. Many churches employ slick graphics to advertise new activities. Creative graphics can be used as tools to minister, but the message needs to be more than a quick energy drink boost; it needs to be spiritual milk helping the church grow. The teaching must have more substance than a fast food burger; it needs to be life-sustaining bread. By looking at Hebrews 4, we can discover several ways to minister by offering rest from the world’s breakneck pace.
Unfortunately the church often makes us busier. A Bible study this morning, a program this evening, a retreat this weekend. Hebrews 4 begins, “since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” If we are too busy, we might miss out on God’s rest!
“For those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). A church could periodically dedicate an entire service as a prayer service. The pastor could lead the congregation in prayer for things going on in the community and church and then dismiss. Even if a church did this only once a year, think of how much that one day would contrast with the rest of the congregation’s busy week. The church I grew up in had several family days each year where instead of having an evening service, they encouraged families to stay home and spend time with each other. Even a nursery or mother’s day out program can prove to be more of an invaluable ministry than you might think.
It is important to make God’s rest available at church. Hebrews 4:11 encourages us to “make every effort to enter that rest.” How do we know what God’s rest looks like? God’s definition of rest flies in the face of the traditional definition of staying in bed past noon and eating corn chips while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is a difference between resting and being lazy. God’s rest is an active rest.
Entertainment (or rather the overabundance of) is making us lazy. I’m a huge fan of entertainment, but I get so tied up in keeping up with my favorite TV series, checking out the newest comics, reading my RSS feeds, and downloading audio dramas to my iPod that I go weeks without producing anything creative myself. Actively resting means getting up and doing something. Maybe actively resting for you is writing a blog entry. Maybe it is getting a group of friends together to write a script for a sketch. Maybe it is riding your bike.
Also, actively resting means studying God’s Word. The writer of Hebrews compares God’s Word to a “double-edged sword” (4:12). Being equipped to live our daily lives requires an active study of Scripture. The reason verse 11 encouraged us to strive for God’s rest was “so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” You cannot incorporate Biblical principles into sketches you write unless you know Biblical principles.
It is especially important for leaders to take time to rest. If you lead a small group in your home, whenever you do get time to study the Bible, you probably spend it preparing for your next small group meeting. Leadership expert Tim Elmore states, “Because leaders spend themselves more than the average person, they need to refuel more often than most people do” (Habitudes #1: The Art of Self-Leadership, 33.) You can’t show others how to rest unless you know how to rest yourself.
The way the King James phrases Exodus 24:12 contains a poignant insight for those striving for God’s rest: “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.’” God says to Moses, “Hey, come here…and just be here.” To me that sounds redundant. God already asked Moses to come there. Why did he also need to tell Moses to be there?
Have you ever heard somebody say “I’m here in body but not in spirit”? Maybe you’ve been sitting in class on a Monday: You stayed up late during the weekend, and although you are sitting in your desk, you aren’t all there. God wanted Moses to be there.
When we meet someone for the first time, one of our first questions is usually “What do you do for a living?” We are so concerned with doing, but God is concerned with being. We don’t feel like we’re serving God unless we’re doing something for God. God cares more about who we are on the inside. In our culture, busyness has become a virtue. How was your week? Well, you know, busy. I have so much to do. Sometime in the midst of your busy schedule, “make every effort to enter” God’s rest.