For most of us, air travel has been streamlined over the course of COVID-19. We are venturing away less often, and even when we do, it seems like we are attempting to carry less with us. I must confess, I dislike “baggage check” and limit my load whenever I can. That way I’m not weighed down or inconvenienced on my travels, especially if I have to stop and change planes along the way.
In replants and revitalization, we need to learn the same principle: We travel best when we travel light. In other words, eliminating baggage will free us up for the journey ahead.
Many struggling churches have not realized this, at least not to the degree that they are willing to deal with it. But deal with it they must, for baggage in church life can be fatal. Just ask any of the churches Jesus addresses in the book of Revelation (ch. 2-3).
By “baggage,” I mean things we are carrying with us on the journey into the future. They are events and experiences, and even material items, that carry emotional impact over people, capturing or influencing our hearts. On trips, we try to hide our baggage in luggage, but it is still cumbersome, awkward and presents difficulties for us (think meals or rest room stops in airports or think car trunk or backseat space outside the terminal). In a similar way, churches tend to hide things in a closet or in the historical archives. We often attempt to sweep them under the proverbial rug. But churches who tend to think “outta sight, outta mind” are solely mistaken.
The Idolatry of Stuff
There’s a spiritual dynamic at work here. They are not just temporal events and material things; they are idols that captivate our souls and weights that tie us down. They can be positive things, like programs, facilities, past successes, reputation and traditions in our heritage — or they can be negative things, like church splits, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety or sinful rebellion. These experiences and objects hold us captive and keep us from following God faithfully into His future.
Jesus is clear about our focused priority: We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). We cannot serve two masters; we will always love the one and hate the other (Matth. 6:24). He demands and must have our undivided allegiance. All other things, good or bad, are shadows of truth, rather than Truth itself.
So, what’s the prescription for dealing with baggage? Simple, really: Acknowledge the baggage you are hiding. Jettison it from your heart and soul; give it up to the Lord through repentance and renewed fidelity of commitment to Christ and His mission. Then return to the mandates of Scripture alone to lead us forward on our journey.
Simple, right? But it’s not easy. Opposition, starting with the Adversary himself, will resist bringing these things out of the dark and into the light. Courage, diligence and wisdom must be used in addressing these issues and dealing with them biblically. Corporate confession and repentance are always a necessary step forward for the church as a whole. Then, with renewed obedience to the Lord’s priorities and mission, the church can well be on its way to an unencumbered journey into the future with Him.
Many of you already realize this is a dangerous trip to make, especially if you are weighed down with spiritual baggage. Most of the danger you will encounter is genuinely spiritual (Eph. 4:11) and must be confronted at the right time and in the right way. The Lord’s admonition to be “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16) is essential to the process.
Be bold. Be patient. Be smart.
Eliminate the baggage holding you back, distracting you and keeping you from the mission of Jesus Christ. It’s the right way to move forward with confidence and blessing! (Prov. 3:5-6)
Baggage check, anyone?
Published February 2, 2021