Daily Devotion - Friday, February 26, 2016
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. - Revelation 3:3-2
I was acting as a guest moderator of a neighboring church's elder board meeting several years ago when I had an epiphany. I had been listening to them discuss how to keep the neighborhood kids off of the church property after school was dismissed in the afternoons, and early evening.
Apparently, kids were skateboarding through the campus, and playing on the grounds as they were passing through on their way home, and this had become an issue for the church members.
I looked around the table. There wasn't a person sitting there who was under the age of 65, and the majority of them were pushing 70 and beyond. The church's weekly worship attendance had fallen to barely 50 people a Sunday. I wondered if in ten years there would even be enough people to keep the doors open and the lights turned on.
I thought about asking them:
"Hey, instead of posting signs and figuring out how to keep kids off your property every afternoon--why don't you form a team that gives them snacks and drinks and lets them play on the grounds supervised for a little while every day? Why don't you get to know their parents? Why don't you figure out what their needs are, and try to meet them?"
In the end, I decided to keep my mouth shut and keep the meeting going. I wish I hadn't, but I honestly don't know if it would have done any good.
This year over 4,000 churches will close their doors for good, which is a sad fact. But there will also be nearly that many new churches who will open their doors for the first time. God isn't done with the Church in the world, and this gives me hope.
What troubles me about the Church, however, is that so many congregations are like the one I encountered that evening--focused solely on survival, maintaining the status quo and holding desperately on to what they have instead of living generously.
We need to hear the word of the Lord coming to us from John the Revelator: "...you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead! Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die..."
When people who are unchurched peer into Christian sanctuaries, do they see a thriving, welcoming, outreaching family of faith, or do they see an exclusive, fearful, threatened bunch of people who are more dead than alive?
Church isn't a place Christians go, it's who they are. All of us who claim to follow Jesus are part of the Church. Church isn't a destination, it's a people. We don't go to church, we are the church.
May you be the Church today in the world, wherever you are, in whatever you do. May you live your life as a light to those around you, sharing the love of Christ, pointing others to God and embodying God's very Holy Spirit every where you go. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.