Our annual meeting is a time when I’m grateful for a dedicated core of disciples whose faith is invested in Jesus and His love for His church. God alone knows the countless hours they have devoted to prayer, service, outreach, and compassion. May He bless them for their passion and deep value of His bride.
Sadly in the twelve years I have been at SCC that core group has shrunk because of transfers, deaths, redirected interests, and competing commitments. Resisting the daily temptation to be a Debbie Downer expends a great deal of my personal energy, and I purposely do my best to avoid engaging in any conversation that might further demoralize the army of the Living God. That doesn’t mean I yield any victory to pandemic, politic, or polemic of Satan. I am keenly aware of those unpredictable variables and pray that they don’t allow any enemy to outmaneuver us. We cannot afford to be unaware or uninformed. (i.e. 2 Corinthians 2:11)
We know beyond the shadow of a doubt there must be a uniform commitment to engage in a dynamic relationship with Jesus if we anticipate Him blessing the family at SCC. Greater risks requires greater efforts; but let’s make sure whatever strategy we agree on together rests on certain realities:
The world as we know suffers primarily from a spiritual famine - not a viral pandemic. Amos 8:11 is today’s reality: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.’” So before brainstorming evangelism, outreach, worship strategies, or assessing community needs there must be a concert of eager ears listening for “thus saith the Lord.” Day after day we must kneel in holy anticipation of what God directs us to do, not what we can attempt only expecting Him to bless. We must do as Judah’s King Jehoshaphat counseled his northern Israeli counterpart in 1 Kings 22:5, “…‘First seek the counsel of the Lord.’” The simplicity of prayer is that it takes no special knowledge or skill - just willingness to obey the divine command to, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)
The church thirsts for care from The Good Shepherd, shepherding elders, and one another. Last weekend I counted 17 deer in the church’s fields! How could I not think of Psalm 42:1-2? “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?” Our weekly prayer list calls for conscious engagement as we seek to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) The robust life of true disciples seeks to be aligned with those on the heart and mind of the Lord Himself. Granted, we are called to have the mind of Christ, yet the struggle is obvious to see afresh those who are hurting, spiritually lost, and hungry for God. I recently read about one of my favorite actors (from the BBC Sherlock series) Benedict Cumberbatch. He portrayed the ‘real life’ individual Greville Wynne in a movie called The Courier. Wynne was an English businessman recruited by MI-6 and the CIA to spy against Russia during the Cold War. Captured by the Soviets though, Wynne spent years in a Soviet Gulag where he was reduced to skin and bones. To play the part, the movie company shut down production for Cumberbatch to go through a period of stressful and severe weight loss. His emaciated appearance was quite stark and affixes him as an actor who is a cut above. But Cumberbatch commented on how brutal the experience was, "You get very disoriented, you feel dehydrated, you feel hungry all the time. You feel emotionally and physically very vulnerable … It’s horrible. I felt … mental instability.” If you’ve ever wondered about the sanity of society, the craze of culture, or the mentality of the masses? Such a description fits the thirst for care God alone can meet. William Temple said, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” Non-members, members alike we all need Jesus and the life He brings.
On every side a voice I hear
That louder speaketh year by year,
A voice I dare not lightly treat,
Prepare, prepare thy God to meet.
The falling leaf, the fading flower,
The sinking sun at evening’s hour
All evermore to me repeat,
Prepare, prepare thy God to meet.
Although church attendance has adapted with terms like ‘adapted worship,’ ‘online,’ we cannot accept terms like ‘dropouts.’ Isaiah calls it spot on: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Loyalty to Jesus Christ and His church? Is the lament of most every minister I know. We pray, prepare, and chase after lost sheep on some of the most distant hills and yet attendance fails to improve. Some sheep are wrapped in thorns preferring familiarity over the risks of togetherness while “… the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) Abuses of authority in contemporary centers of power leave many sheep suspicions of ‘organized religion.’ Honesty the reasons could go on and on, but one auspicious fact cannot be denied: Christ loves the church and has given Himself up for it. If we love Christ, we are going to love His bride and long for time together with His family. The Apostle Paul compared the church to a body where each member was dependent on the other. A brother in the ministry commented:
“I know there are some exciting stories of things happening online, but there is something special about a spirit-filled worship service. There is a good reason why the Bible commands, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” Good things happen when you ride to church together as a family, listen to a sermon surrounded by other believers, take the Lord’s supper, and sing worship songs together with others. All those activities are enhanced when done corporately.”
My family, Jesus is still the head of His church - let’s follow His commands.