At first glance, the word mandatory is NOT one of my favorite words. My personality type is partly to blame, I'm sure, but anything that locks me in to some sort of unchangeable obligation feels like an assault on my freedom; like a prison. Whenever I feel indebted to someone, or some action is absolutely required of me, I find myself doing whatever I can to fulfill it and "be free." When I hear the word mandatory, my first instinct is to feel threatened or imposed upon. How about you?
Interestingly, there have been times when I have faced mandatory moves that have not felt like that. In fact, I find myself welcoming them, grateful even! When I reflect on why that is, I discover it is because these mandatory moves are serving something that I want, and they feel more like "useful guideposts" and "mile markers" for the journey towards it. And the fact that they are mandatory just helps me to set them as priorities. For example, when I decided I wanted to marry Carrie, it was mandatory that I forsake all others. This move did not feel like a "binding" requirement, but a freeing one. One that safeguards what I want.
This summer is for those who want to be Christians. You see, those who want to live in and like Jesus Christ (that is what a Christian is, despite what you may have heard) have some mandatory moves that they "must" make. Far from being "binding" requirements, they serve as freeing guideposts and mile markers for the journey that, trust me, you want to be on. Without them you will get stuck in a quagmire of motionlessness and habit that you may call "Christian," but it will be far from it.
This past Wednesday, one of our Shepherds invited all of the Elders and Ministers into a room. He had asked us to share two things: (1) the spiritual strategies and attacks that come against us personally, and (2) the ones that come against us as a leadership and against our vision.
One subtle attack that I see in our leadership and in our church is the idea that "we have arrived," or "we have changed enough," or "we have come so far, can't we just enjoy it for a while?" Any move to change, improve or be transformed more into Christ's image is resisted, or even opposed. To this, Paul says that we are to forget what is behind and press on to what is next (Philippians 3:13). If you want to follow Christ, that is.