Friday, June 29, 2012
I know what you're thinking: "Well, thanks for that, Captain Obvious."
It's Friday, which means, it's Saturday for me. It's 7:30 in the morning and I'm sitting on the loveseat in my PJ's with my laptop and a cup of my favorite java. After while, I'm going to head over to our house to spend the day making it look a little less abandoned, but I need to write first.
Friday, for me, is not only my "regular day off" (I use that term very, very loosely...and save all the cracks about pastors only working one day a week for the end of class, please). Friday is the day I usually take a little time to reflect on the week and the work that was done for the Kingdom, and I have to say, this week has been a banner week. Seriously.
It hasn't been anything that I've done, and I mean that. The church that I am blessed to pastor, and the flock that I am blessed to shepherd, never ceases to amaze me. I have considered beginning a volunteer log so that we can track the massive amount of volunteer hours my flock donates each week. I don't know why, but I think it would be a huge morale boost for the tough weeks...and I know there will be tough weeks.
We hosted our "Operation Overboard" VBS this week and my folks welcomed, taught, fed, and played with a great group of kids. It was hot...inside the building and out. I know they are exhausted, but as I looked back through the registration forms, I realized why we do this: I was amazed by the number of kids who had listed "None" or "N/A" as their church home. For 4 nights, they received just a tiny little taste of the body of Christ loving them in the name of Christ. Now the hard work begins...follow up.
As amazing as VBS was this year, that is not the only thing that sticks out in my mind as making this week past a banner week. Three other things have happened since Wednesday that have opened my eyes to some blessings and major problems with the local church.
First the blessing: (Cue compliment sandwich) The local church is poised to have an impact, the likes of which, has not been seen since the great revival movement of the mid 19th century. Folks are hungry. They are looking for something.
I sat through two meetings yesterday that concretized the suspicions I have had for the 13 years I've been in ministry: We (the local churches) honestly have no clue what the hell we're doing when it comes to reaching folks for the kingdom. There, I said it. We don't know how to do the one thing we have been comissioned to do. We're really good at transferring membership from one flock to another, but as far as reaching out to "the unchurched" we're basically really good at sitting around talking about it.
One of the meetings I sat in yesterday is a new task force who's purpose is to look at revitalizing our existing local churches and starting new faith communities. I love all of the folks who sat in the room with me yesterday, and many of them have mentored me throughout my career. We did a lot of defining the problem, but not much in addressing ways to fix it. We know what doesn't work, but haven't figured out yet what does work. (Prayer: "Lord, grant me patience. Amen.) I have committed to this group and can't wait for God to move among us.
Last night, I sat through meeting #2 for the day. My ears perked up when I heard my friend (and boss), Sky McCracken, read from Dan Dick's blog about the young people who are missing in the local church. You can read that blog here:
Not only do we not know how to reach them, we really don't even know who they are. We know they're not in worship on Sunday morning, but we haven't asked them why. We know they are different in ideology, style, dress, and focus, and maybe those differences scare us. I don't know. I have to say that I'm not sure many of the churches who claim to want younger people in their midst, really want younger people in their midst. That, for me, is where the two meetings from yesterday crash head on. Revitalization in the local church can only happen, at least in my opinion, when those on the inside develop a burning desire to spend time with those who are not on the inside yet, and to see them brought to a healing relationship with the Creator God...instead of engaging in spitting contests over worship style, times, dress, and all that other stuff that Jesus (probably, possibly, maybe) doesn't even care about. Where is the source of that burning desire? The Holy Spirit, of course...another entity many local churches are afraid to let in.
Now for the one thing that totally blew me away this week. I had a young man come to me Wednesday night. Normal looking guy. He had made some bad decisions which led to our first meeting at the county jail. He came to me and asked "Can I ask you a question?" (Lord, forgive my cynicism for the thoughts I had at that moment) "Sure," I said. Then he leaned in close and almost whispered this: "I've been thinking about something this week. I think I would like to come to church here..." Then he looked into my eyes and asked, "Would it be ok if I came to church here?"
"Of course it would be ok for you to come to church here! I would love that, and you let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I'll see you this weekend."
Now, why would he even ask that question? Because it is not okay for him to go to some of the other local churches, evidently. Why? Because he's young...he dresses in jeans and a T-shirt...he has a record...he is actually seeking something but has no clue what the hell it is..and honestly, many local churches are afraid of him. Not only are many local churches afraid of him, he is afraid of them. Why? Well, that question has as many answers as the many judgments he has had passed on him by well mearning "Christians."
(Cue blessing sandwich again) But there is hope! Jesus himself, as he looked into the eyes of a young woman with a record, a reputation, and probably dressed loosely...as he bent down to write in the sand, and then as he looked back into her eyes, asked her, "Where are they? Does no one condemn you? Then neither do I. Go and sin no more." That is our example. That is the way our Jesus did things.
We are in the position to give folks on the outside something they may have never had...love in the name of Christ. But first, we have to get to know them...and their baggage...and their pasts...and their questions...and their hopes...and their confusion...and their distrust of organized religion.
Now, if your church is ready to do those things, I guarantee you, revitalization is on the horizon, and hopefully the number of kids filling out registration forms at our really awesome, yet to be designed, VBS next year, will put the name of their church home on the line where, this year, they put "none."