Raising the Bar

By Tim Heerebout

I used to be an athlete. If you look at my picture now it’s quite obvious that I could no longer call myself that. Despite my current lack of physical prowess I am still a great fan of sports of all kinds. Any pursuit that takes the human body and pushes it to its limits is enough for me…which is why I don’t count baseball or golf as real sports…but that’s another post all together.

Even sports I’ve never attempted fascinate me. Take high jumping for example. How is it possible that a human being manages to hurl their entire mass over this bar that is raised several meters off the ground. By the looks of it, it’s not easy. It requires training, more misses than hits at first and a driving desire to get better just a little bit every time you jump.

I’ve been discovering lately that church planting requires the same mentality. When I speak to people about the predicament Christ followers face here in Toronto I often tell them that I think the world is hearing us say “I’m a Christian” and saying in response “so what?” As one barista put it to me in a conversation “I know irreligious people doing more for the world than most Christians I know”. Ouch. Firm…but fair I think.

So I believe we need to raise the bar on what it means to be a Christ follower. Most of us aren’t training hard enough, not pushing ourselves to the limits of servanthood in the name of Jesus, not waking up every day with the pursuit of becoming more like Jesus just a little bit burning within us. If you want some scriptural basis for this being a part of Jesus’ call to us then perhaps reading the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5 again might help. Pay special attention to verses 21-48. Isn’t raising the bar exactly what Jesus is doing for his listeners?

Here’s the rub and lesson I’ve been learning. As a church planter you will constantly feel the urge to lower the bar – especially when you’re trying to create early traction. It’s lonely when your church is literally ONLY your family. You’ll give anything to get those first few followers. You’ll even consider giving away your vision. I’ve done it several times this year and without hesitation it’s come back to bite me in the rear on every occasion.

Be committed to raising the bar. Call people to nothing short of a radical transformation into Christ followers. Set the expectations high for yourself and your leaders. Everyday strive together to become just a little bit more like Jesus. Invite people to discover what that feels like. For me it’s likely the only way I can feel like a real athlete again…I’m betting it’ll feel even better this time around.

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