- "A Musing Pastor"
Happened to notice of a major bridge replacement coming soon to our area. This particular bridge is one of the main arteries to many popular places and will bring about some hardship for travelers. Alternate planning and secondary routes will have to scoped out and implemented. I imagine there will be a fair amount of grumbling and some road rage surface as a result of this detour. The project is much needed and it will address an unsafe bridge.
When the new structure is finished, there will be better traffic flow and smoother access to the important venues. Funny how we often take little things for granted. Remove the little things and immediately you would swear the world stopped spinning. All 'heck' breaks loose and we often lose our minds if even for a temporary period of time. We don't like change and we especially don't like to make concessions on things we claim as our own. We church folk engage in this behavior at times. Don't mess with my worship service, the sanctuary is too hot (too cold), don't renovate an unused area of the church because it will hurt the aesthetics of our space, and other changes fuel the demise of church growth. We dislike detours!
I was meandering through some 6 year old mission photos from Malawi Africa and smiled warmly as I recalled church services in the small impoverished country. While we here in the western world are concerned about carpet colors, stained glass, and other cosmetic concerns in our churches, Malawian Christians gather by the hundreds to worship God and glorify the Son and all through the powerful moving Holy Spirit. Here is a church in the region of Pfulanjobvu.
Note the saplings dropped into a hand dug hole, the thatched roof, and hand formed raised mud seating. Suspiciously missing from this photo is fined crafted stained glass, plush carpeting, padded pews, and central air. Also one should note the packed nature of this place of worship. They were squeezed into this place to hear the Word of God preached and to offer their Spirit filled electric worship to God (A common service can last for a couple hours). In one particular church, the offering was not taken, it was given. The church danced and sang their way to the altar and placed their meager gifts in the bowls. The powerful moment was devoid of a pipe organ but driven solely by the voices of worshippers. Christianity is blooming like a flower in this place. They either don't see their poverty as a hindrance to worship or perhaps they don't know any better. They deal with detours every day!
I have been reading much material on church decline and what leads to this condition. I have also been reading articles and research to determine what can be done to avert this slow slide. The basic principles are few, simplistic, and effective.
1. Change from seeing God as 'limited' to seeing God as 'limitless'. God is at work in the world. We choose to join with God or decline this important piece of our faith.
2. We must stop seeking our own creature comforts at the expense of the unchurched outside of our church who are seeking basic needs. (It is important to be good stewards and care for the church structure. It is important to care for the people who comprise the church. It is imperative to care for those who don't know Jesus yet.) [Not necessarily in this order.]
3. Simply fix our eyes outward and toward the mission field that exists all around us rather than looking inward at our own likes, dislikes and those pesky bridge replacements that affect our schedules and plans.
As soon as we divert focus away from our own desires and seek to meet, greet, minister to, and pray with the people of our communities, our churches will begin to grow and God's Kingdom will be growing. There should never be detours to faith filled and spirit led worship of God and connection to the lost. Detours? What detours?