On Wednesday Evening we held our annual Thanksgiving Eve service. I held it in the downstairs of the church with chairs in a circle. This provided a more intimate environment than sitting in rows of pews…and it didn’t have any tint of demoralization as you felt the emptiness all around you (the sanctuary can fit a lot more people). It is funny how space can have such an effect upon our perceptions. Put ten people in a small room and you’ll feel like you are having a party and packed the house out, put them in a large area and you’ll oftentimes feel lonely and discouraged.
For an hour we sang songs, read Scripture, and shared what we were thankful for. I can’t speak for anyone else – but I know for me it was an encouraging, positive, and peaceful experience. That sounds a lot like what I want church to be. Not a place where saints slumber while the world burns, but where the injured and lonely and anxious can come and find succor.
Earlier the same day I had written about my current status – the trauma of the past year, the opportunity for present renewal, the anticipation of a new year with CCC. I also noted, “This is the last year for me. If the vision cannot begin to show tender sprouts by the end of 2014, I will know that it will never be – or at least, that I, I am not equal to the task.”
But the vision has sprouted and has been sprouting. It is the willingness to share, without fear of judgment, the struggles and joys of our personal lives…the comfortable participation of younger voices (e.g. teenagers) in the service – in word and song…impromptu prayers for the sick and suffering on a night of thanksgiving…the comfort of friends…the painful, yet growing inner transformation we are experiencing in our own lives…that is the vision.
Sometimes I lose sight of the vision for the weeds of financial stability and numerical growth. These aren’t weeds I plant – one of the blessings-in-disguise of my ADD is poor insight into the long-term future.1I attribute this to my ADD and don’t assume that it is some superiority in my moral character that allows me not to worry in these areas as others are apt to do. I don’t tend to get anxious about things down the road (and this drives folks nuts). But I am susceptible to the fears of others – and while I resist them, if the fears are persistent enough – I lose sight of the vision.
Thankfully it isn’t for long. God always brings me back around. I forget about the impending financial crisis or the subtle, never-spoken, yet present demands that we grow numerically (::cough:: Stop agreeing with me. Some of the worst demanders of numerical growth are those who insist numerical/financial growth doesn’t matter…usually b/c they desire growth in immeasurable and intangible ways they cannot define or quantify and thus are not possible to meet. ::cough::)…and I see what God has given us and what He has in store. I think Charity posted something recently that said, “Gratitude makes what we have enough.”
So, when I say I need to see “forward momentum” in 2014, I don’t mean that what we have isn’t good, right, and enough for now. We are on a journey and we will find our destination an illusion unless we can enjoy and accept the journey – the journey builds the destination.
I don’t mean that our financial coffers are filled. I don’t mean that the pews are packed. I’m not saying these wouldn’t be nice – but they are not the indicators of forward momentum.
What does forward momentum look like? Interesting question. I know what I want it to look like: stability and reliability.
I think it will look like stability and reliability – but I also think there is a small chance that God will not give us either of these and forward momentum will look like more acceptance. Acceptance on my part that I have to say no more frequently, that I have to ask others to make additional sacrifices, that to the outside world (and even some within, including myself on occasion) the church (and thus I) may look like a failure, that I will have to accept that I am weak in specific areas, that it is a long and painful process to strengthen these areas, and that at least in some areas, there may not be anyone to step in and become the strength…and if that is so, accepting that for the time being we simply have to be weak in such-and-such an area.
I don’t want to deny the many and crucial ways in which we need to grow as a church, but I don’t want to overlook the many ways in which we are successfully being the church. When I keep these in mind, the obstacles facing us don’t seem so overwhelming.
|↑1||I attribute this to my ADD and don’t assume that it is some superiority in my moral character that allows me not to worry in these areas as others are apt to do.|