Sunday, November 9, 2008


Yesterday, I led a retreat here at the church for our leaders (elders & Church Council members). The main focus of our time centered around the idea of winning. Sometimes, in church culture, we get uncomfortable talking about winning. The reason for that reluctance is because so many churches are actually losing, and it's not considered "nice" to point that out, or to suggest that failure is not ok.

But the principle of winning is woven throughout the Bible:

There are many, many other passages I could have listed here. I'd encourage you to look through each of these, but I think the most significant ones are the first and the last. Genesis 3 is the point in human history at which sin enters the scene. Revelation 19-22 is the end of the Bible when God's plan is brought to completion. From the moment sin is inserted into God's creation, he declares his intention to win, to beat it down, to destroy it. The rest of the Bible is the unfolding of his plan, until its culmination in Revelation 19-22, when GOD WINS!!!

In the Old Testament, God is concerned about Israel winning wars. He is concerned about them being successful in taking the Promised Land. He is concerned about them being victorious over the nations that they are supposed to drive out.

In the New Testament, God is concerned about the church winning over the gates of hell. God is concerned about winning people to faith in him through his son Jesus. He is concerned about us winning the prize of the heavenly reward that is in store for us if we are faithful and fruitful.

God wins on purpose, and he wants his followers to win on purpose too. In his book, Winning on Purpose, John Edmund Kaiser writes: "Thinking of success in the church is neither an encroachment of corporate business culture nor an inherently modern fixation of Boomers. Even the sports metaphor in [this book] dates back as far as 1950--1950 years ago that is. See Paul fight. See Paul run. Run, Paul, run. The emphasis of this image in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 is not on the discipline of training but on the purpose for the discipline, which is to win the race. Wait, doesn't God love losers? Of course! In moral terms, all of us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are losers. But God doesn't love us because we're losers. And his love doesn't leave us as losers. God is the Ultimate Winner, and he makes a place for us on the winning side. The name of his team is not Losers Anonymous, it is Those Who Overcome. God has a redemptive purpose in the world and is serious about prevailing." (pp. 18-19)

As a church, we can never win unless we boldly declare our full commitment to winning.

  • Good intentions and good tries are not enough;
  • Purposeless, aimless busyness is not enough;
  • Thinking that winning is a nice notion is not enough;
  • Feeling that we compare favorably in some way to other churches we know of is not enough;
  • Continuing to pay the bills and keep the lights on is not enough;

Let me say it clearly. There is only one reason we exist as a church. There is only one thing that we do. There is only one thing we aim at. And that is winning--i.e., accomplishing the mission of the church.

Anything less or other is unacceptable. It is failure. It is losing. We cannot be content with losing. We play the game to win. Only, it's not a game. There is nothing more real, nothing with higher stakes, nothing more important. It is eternal, it is infinite, it is the center of what this life and this universe are all about.

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