For more than ten years my church has struggled, mostly trying to catch up to and match those halcyon years of the past that we seem to hold out as the “golden age”, a time when everything seemed to be going right. It is hard to realize that those specific years, and those specific elements are not coming back. What we can’t seem to get through our thick skulls is that those wonderful and creative years occurred because of US, the members of my congregation!
It was this same group that willingly served on committees, that participated with energy in “each one reach one” projects, that visited the sick and the homebound, that brainstormed fresh new ideas through Future Ministries, that warmly welcomed the visitor, that were instrumental in the forming of the Lutheran Cursillo movement in the state of Indiana, that aspired to become the mission center for our County, that aspired to be the “heart of town” and we did not view worshiping on Sunday as our only “obligation” as a Christian, each one of us saw a missional purpose throughout the week.
But, we have waited. For however many years it has been. We wait for a pastor who will work magic and lead us. We wait for the inspiration to hit us. We wait for something miraculous to happen. We wait, and the years have gone by and our congregation has simply gotten older.
Does that sound a lot like your congregation? If so, then I have some questions for you…and for me.
I call to mind the prayer of Sir Francis Drake: “Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery; where in losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little (or too small), when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.”
Or, I could quote the Righteous Brothers: Have we “Lost that lovin’ feeling”? Have we individually lost that thirst for the waters of life? When did we cease to dream of tomorrow or eternity? When did we lose that sense of being bold, of taking uncertain steps, not being sure where that next rock or foothold will be?
I have no real answer to the above questions, I just have more questions.
Who will visit the sick and the homebound? Is it me? Is it you?
Who will step up and be part of working groups within the congregation? Is it me? Is it you?
Who will take the lead in warmly welcoming the visitor, the stranger? Is it me? Is it you?
Who will reach out to those members, friends of ours, who seem to be absent from participating in the work of the church? Is it you? Is it me?
Who will reach out to members of the community who have no church affiliation? Is it you? Is it me?
Remember that tall order that Jesus gave us: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples…” John 13:34-35 How do we love others as He has loved us?
This is how Greg Finke has put it in his book Joining Jesus on His Mission: “Remember you are joining Jesus on His mission. He is already at work, doing the heavy lifting. You are not going out for Him, you are going out with Him…Jesus divides up the work that needs to be done: Jesus does the incredibly complex work that requires the Son of God…(while) we do the incredibly simple work that requires a little child…all we really have to do is enjoy people, and seek, recognize and respond to what Jesus is already doing in the lives of the people we are enjoying.”
Back to those questions. The answer to each is YES! Yes, it is you! Yes, it is me! Yes, it is us! Each one of us. We are charged to love others as Christ has loved us. So, the answer is YES, but we are not alone. Jesus has been working in our church and community, in your church and community, in each one of us all these many years. We are called, not to do it on our own, but to join Jesus on His mission within our churches, our communities. We are called to be His partners, “His disciples.”
Sometime in the near future each one of us will be called to do our part, to step up, to be just a bit bolder than we have been. That call might come from a pastor, a friend, or possibly a voice in your mind that says “do your part, take a chance, sail on uncertain, even wild waters”. Take a leap of…what do you call it? Oh, yes, FAITH. A leap of faith where we know with certainty that Christ will be with us all the way, and then some.
How about you? How about me?
For What It’s Worth.