By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
“We can do it!” greeted me from every mobile that hung from the ceiling of a fast-food chain. It was their motto, and I loved it. So I located the manager and told him I wanted to buy one of those mobiles. His reply? “We can’t do that!” I told him his store’s motto said they could. But policy and procedure wouldn’t let him do that.
Recently I located a double-file drawer on casters for sale in an office store chain. It fit my needs and measurements exactly and was listed for $79.99. I told manager John I wanted that filing cabinet and had the money and my truck right then. John said, “I can’t do that!” He told me he couldn’t sell me the store’s floor display, and the cabinet was available only online. So later I went online to order the freight-free item. Online it cost $89.99 with freight-free included. I did an online chat with a rep of that chain store. The store chatter told me the sales team sets the price, which often varies online from the price listed in the store. You surely get the “Catch-22” I faced.
When society says, “I can’t do it.” I used my smart phone to take a picture of the filing cabinet, wrote down all the numbers, got the original manufacturer, went online, and guess what? I found the exact item on sale for $69.99, freight-free and two-day delivery. So I hit the “Purchase” key! The “Fastener” chain store had a policy and procedure that cost them a sale and a customer. Besides, I’ve got eight grandchildren and seven great grands I’ll influence☺.
Churches often get so steeped in policy and procedure and tradition that they can tend to be like the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. They fail to meet people where they are and consider their needs and how to go about meeting those needs. True, “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV); but our Savior is a “can-do” person able to do whatever needs doing. He’s always been able to do more than we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). He’s still that kind of can-do Christ in a “can’t-do” society. Christ can and will meet our
The joy of meeting a can-do person. In another office store, I spotted a floor-display lamp that I wanted. They also couldn’t sell the floor-display lamp by policy and procedure. But manager Mark smiled — as he checked his smart phone — and told me this: “Johnnie, our sister store down the street is showing that they have several of that particular lamp in their inventory. I’ll be glad to run down there at lunch and get you one.” I was happy, and agreed. That afternoon — sure enough — when I went back, Mark had the lamp; and I bought it right then to take home with me. But that’s not the end of the story.
I liked my new lamp so much that I decided to go back and buy wife Phyllis one just like it. So I did. Manager Mark met me with my request to buy another identical lamp. He smiled and said, “Johnnie —- knowing you — I had suspected you might want to buy another one; so I got two yesterday when I visited our sister store.” Sold American! Mark not only met my needs, he anticipated my next wants and needs. Wow, what would a church be like if it did that in proclaiming the good news!
Can do requires faith/belief. A current movie that I’ve seen only the previews of tells about a boy who was told he could do anything if he really believed he could. The boy took that literally. He told it to an adult in a store. The adult pooh-poohed the boy’s belief about being able to move mountains. Then the adult took the boy outside by the hand, pointed to a mountain, and said, “There’s a mountain. Move that mountain if you can!” The boy closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and looked determined. Then the ground began to shake; the mountain began to crumble and start to move. It scared the “bejeebers” out of the adult. And others on the street registered that same alarm.
If we really had that can do mountain-moving kind of faith, it would scare people out of their shoes (see Mark 11:22-24). Anemic Christianity is the kind that reflects our CAN’T-DO society. The genuine Christianity that Jesus and the apostles knew requires a faith in God that can turn the world upside down. We need that kind of can-do faith, but we need it in the biblical context too.
Philippians 4:13 in context: Many of us have glibly and meaningfully quoted Philippians 4:13 ever since we first read it as a Christian: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (KJV). The literal Greek translates, “All things I can do in the One Who strengthens me.” “In Christ” appears 164 times in Paul’s epistles and always refers to the risen Christ. William Barclay wrote, “To say that the phrase ‘in Christ’ means ‘through Christ’ is true, but considerably less than half the truth.”
Late great Baptist Greek scholar A.T. Robertson insisted on translating “in Him.” Paul would have been appalled at any translation that even hinted at looking to Christ as a heavenly Santa Claus to do our whims. We first have to be in the saving relationship in Christ before He enables us and gives us “dynamite can-do power” to do His will. God calls us to be “can-do Christians” in relationship with the omnipotent, empowering Christ!
So what? I’ve spent roughly half my life on each side of the pulpit. My dual perspectives have let me look at pastoral Don Quixotes and also can’t do congregations of negativism. Here are some things I’ve heard: “We can’t do that!” “We tried that before, and it didn’t work.” “We never did it that way before.” And just when the pastor is ready to challenge a congregation to answer, “Yes, Lord! Yes!” many are shaking their heads or hearts and dealing in naysaying.
When I used to go to Moscow for international book fairs during Iron Curtain days, I learned an atheistic saying: namely, “Ees Eempossible!” When I challenged a clerk who gave me that pathetic reply to a simple task, she then countered, “Ees even deeficult!” But, then, I got to watch God laugh as He disbanded Communism and let us believers distribute four million Russian New Testaments in September 1991.
The answer to my “So what?” is the Bible’s, “Have faith in God!” In Christ, become can-do Christians. In the meantime, I’ll direct the arrows in my quiver to Mark — not John☺.
— Copyright 2015 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.