I realized something this week and it really has me bothered. I don't know what to do about it, whether I should say something, or just let it go. It would be very easy to turn it into a sermon, but I know me, and a sermon about this topic would just be sarcastic, so I won't do that. And it's not everywhere, probably not even a very big deal in the grander scheme of things. But it's bothering me, and maybe it's just frustration peeking through, I don't know.
Now, keep in mind, this is my blog and it's a place for me to free flow my thoughts. What I write here is not directed at any person, or any group of people, just usually a series of generalized thoughts about situations that I find myself in, or have found myself in previously. That being said, if you want to stop reading here, it's ok with me. I say that because I may start preachin' a little this morning. Disclaimer in place, here goes.
I may catch a lot of flack over this one, but Paul hit me this morning. Paul doesn't usually do that. More times than not he loses me in the wanderings of his mind, but this morning, he got me. Romans 12 is where I was at, and in that chapter, he seems to be giving a new set of rules, or let's say guidelines, for how this community of faith in Rome was supposed to act together, what they should do, and so on. Here's what he says:
"Love must be sincere; hate was is evil. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone..."
Now, I've been doing this long enough to know that most church folk, in most churches, in most corners of the world would say, "Well, we already do all that," because most church folks, in most churches, in most corners of the world think their church has got it figured out. And for some of them, if you're not a member you've punched a one way ticket to "that place." Here's what bothers me; most churches do get part of what Paul was talking about, and some churches get a lot of it, but there is always room to do more.
Most churches do alright with practicing hospitality. Most churches have the being devoted to one another nailed. Most churches do a pretty good job sharing with folks in need. Our county food pantry shows that and some of my folks brought me more food for that yesterday. But here's what we're missing, and here is what frustrates me. I knew there was something bothering me but couldn't figure out what it was until yesterday, and then Paul put it into words this morning.
"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor." That's it. That's what has frustrated me for 11 years but I could never give it a name. We do ok with the other stuff, but we have very little zeal or fervor as a group. That doesn't mean that no one does, but as a group, when you set up a zeal-o-meter and average across the board, it's pretty low.
Now, I understand that it's easier for me because I have more time to do the hands on things, and to spend time in worship. That's my job. I respect the fact that for everyone else in my flock, they have to decide if they are going to work, spend time with family, or give some time to God. I respect the difficulties in that decision, and honestly, I expect them to put their families before the church; not before God, but before the church.
Yesterday, (and I apologize in advance to my folks because this could get me in a lot of trouble. The PPRC is meeting in a couple weeks) we had a very small crowd. I knew we would, and that's ok. It was the holiday weekend and folks were with family, and most families don't get to do nearly enough of that. But it wasn't the number in attendance that I noticed, it was the spirit.
It was warm in the sanctuary, very warm, but my trustee chair is on that already. He is great at taking care of that place so I know he'll have it fixed by next weekend. It was a holiday weekend, the first Sunday of summer church (which means the suits and ties can stay in the closet), but something seemed missing. Pentecost was just last Sunday, but there just didn't seem to be any spirit yesterday, and honestly, I don't know how to fix it. This is the frustration.
So, I'm asking...what can the church do to bring back the zeal? What can we do to fire up our worship, whether it's high church or contemporary? What can we do to get back out into the mission field? Because honestly, I'm out of tricks in my bag.
So, from the depths of frustration, I need some input. I need some help leading into zeal and fervor, and here's where you can help. If you can't wait to get to your church on Sunday morning, I want to know why. If you spend time volunteering instead of going to the movies, I want to know why. If your worship leaves you fulfilled and reconnected to God, I want to know why. And even more importanty, if you're not feeling any of these, I want to know why. You can respond here or you can send me a message.
Paul's new rules may be tough to get in place, but I bet it would really help us transform the world.