As we would say in the south, “I was raised right!” My family attended church off and on. Being a navy family, we moved frequently so I went to quite a few schools and churches. I remember being in Christmas programs, singing in a children’s choir and was active in youth groups, but I remember thinking church and worship were boring.
In college, I could do what I wanted which did not include attending church. There were a couple of years I was active, but I soon drifted away again. My excuse? “I work six days a week in a suit and tie. Why dress up on my only day off?” I was among the many who were raised in church, exposed to the teachings of Jesus, but chose to stay away. “I believed in God but didn’t feel any need to be in church.”
But… there was a growing dissatisfaction with my life and a question that haunted me: “Is this all there is? Now what?” Obviously, something happened that changed me and answered my “Now What?” questions.
After becoming a preacher, I found this experience helpful. Because of my own struggles with attending church, I felt a deeper understanding of why others struggled not only with attending church but in their relationship with God.
Today, people who regularly attend church in America are in the minority. At least one, maybe two generations have grown up with no church experience. As COVID-19 becomes less threatening, I wonder if people’s attitudes about God and church have been impacted? People might sense a greater need for God but there are still a lot of prejudices and questions when it comes to being part of a church.
In the Bible, Jesus talks to Nicodemus, a respected leader in the community. He’s the equivalent of a pastor who helps others deepen their relationship with God. Nicodemus approaches Jesus as a fellow professional looking for a mutual sharing of ideas.
Imagine it this way: I, as a pastor, say to Jesus, “I know God sent you.” (John 3:2)
Jesus replies, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“Excuse me?” I say. “I already am a follower of God. I teach others how to follow God. I am old and retired. How can an old man go back to being born again?”
Good question: It’s one thing to tell someone who has never really known God, they must be born again, it’s quite another to say that to your preacher.
Here is Jesus’ answer: “No one enters the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”
Look at the key words: Human and Spirit. The human in us knows who God is, but Jesus is promising so much more. Knowledge of God can only take you so far. Being born again opens us up to following God, being led toward a deeper relationship with God, through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is not talking about your unchurched friend next door. He is talking directly to you and me. We must be born again before we can fully understand the awesome gift, God provides and then we begin to answer our, “now what questions?”
How do we move beyond philosophical discussions about God to experiencing God? Jesus is telling Nicodemus, “You move beyond the classroom of human knowledge to intimately knowing Jesus as your Savior. “You and I, must be born again.”
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
God loves us so much, He sacrificed His Son so that we have a path to follow and a companion to guide us through the twists and turns, bumps and bruises that are part of our lives on earth.
You see, I believe that we as card carrying, church attending followers of Christ must first search for answers to our “Now What?” questions, be “Born Again” and then help others do the same.
Question: What can we do to improve our relationship with Jesus? Be Born Again. What can our church do to provide needed help along the way? Who do we know that needs you to be a witness in their life? How can you creatively reach out to that person and show God’s love?
Those are the questions I challenge our church to answer. I, like Nicodemus need to be born again. We cannot go back to the way we were. But the question is: What does God expect?
The following email sent to our mission director shows what can happen when we as a church work together to make a difference in people’s lives: “A few years have passed but I wanted to reach out and tell you so many things have turned around for me since you helped me years ago. I no longer have to go to food banks for groceries, I bought a house, and my sons and I have a wonderful man in our life who is a Christian and loves us dearly. Financially, I am in a better place. God has changed my life and blessed my family more than I could even imagine. Thank you for being an angel from heaven. Your generosity and that from others from your Church saved my life. I pray you are well and are still helping people in need. God bless you.”
We all have “Now What?” questions. Together let us be “Born Again” and remove ourselves from what limits us and plant ourselves in the fertile soil of God’s amazing opportunities.