I admit that I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of guy. As OCD as I am about some things (a clean house being one), when it comes to some of the things I do, I'm game for just about anything. When we go on vacation (which I found out yesterday hasn't been since October of 2007, need to do that) I very seldom make plans. We might decide which direction we're going, and might go ahead and reserve a hotel somewhere, but that's about as far ahead as I plan. I despise itineraries, because they always leave me feeling rushed to get to the next place. But I do realize that there are some areas of life that need a little planning.
That being said, as I was reading this morning, I realized again that God does indeed have a plan. Unfortunately, it may not be exactly what we thought it was. I like God's plan, though, and I think I've already signed up to do what I can to help. Here's what I found this morning. It comes from Micah 4, and says:
"'In that day,' declares the Lord, 'I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame a remnant, those driven away a strong nation.."
I like that plan. I like the thought of being part of something that gives folks a place to belong. I like the idea of God intentionally gathering the exiles, and those with broken hearts. And I really like the idea of these folks becoming a strong nation. Now, the language is a bit old, but the message is the same. "If you don't feel you belong anywhere else, don't give up, God is looking for you and is intentionally making a place where you belong. And since God is making a strong nation out of you, you definitely won't be alone." How many folks do we know need to hear that?
The questions I have for most churches is this: "What are you doing to intentionally help make this new plan of God's a reality? And if you can't list specific things you are doing to make a strong nation out of the exiles, why not?"
I have found that most folks who are not actively a part of a worshipping body, were at one time. Now, I know that some folks never really have been, but most folks have at some time been part of a church, and for whateve reason, are no more. And what I have also found is that for most of them, the reason they are no longer attending is that they didn't feel welcome for whatever reason. I know that there are some who have been dealt some serious life blow and because of confusion, anger, or whatever, have chosen to stop worshipping the God they feel is at fault. God is big enough to handle that and patient enough to wait. What are we doing for these folks?
Now, it may seem as if I pick on organized religion alot, and that I paint a negative picture for a lot of churches. That's not intentional, but as a pastor, I don't think we focus enough on those who feel exiled, and that we focus too much on our walls and doors.
So, I would like to hear your thoughts. If God's plan is to make a strong nation of the exiles, and if we set aside the reality that God was speaking of returning folks who had been exiled from Israel, and if we see this as a promise God continues to make today, what are we doing to make God's plan a reality? What is your plan, as a church, for making God's plan a reality? I think it begins simply enough; maybe an invitation, a smile, call them by name at least once while they are there, and an assurance that whatever seat they choose in the sanctuary doesn't belong to someone else. Just a thought.