I read an article about a small town hospital in Missouri which was struggling to stay open. It had a payroll of $80,000.00 for the month and only $8,000.00 in the bank. Their attitude had been to cut cost, reduce expenditures and eliminate services. They had adopted a “bunker mentality” in which they were simply waiting for the end to come. Then someone had the idea of expanding services instead of reducing them. They realize there was a need in their area for a certain type of medical services and began to explore ways to meet that need. This required passing a $7,000,000.00 bond to remodel the facility and hiring a team of medical professionals including physicians, nurses and technicians. It was a risk that could have bankrupted the town. But the greater risk was to continue the “bunker mentality” and lose the hospital and the economic benefit it brought the community. The plan worked and the hospital provides quality healthcare and economic strength to the rural community.
I’ve often thought that local churches have a “bunker mentality” and are simple hunkering down waiting for the predictable end. Like the hospital board in that small Missouri community, perhaps we need to look around and see what the needs are in the community and how we, the Church, can fill that need. We are exploring a monthly Praise and Worship service (PAWS) and have conducted our second annual “Gospel Celebration” at the Webster County Fair. A “Ministry Garden” was planted at the Blue Hill Church and the Christian Men’s Groups is committed to several projects, including a community picnic this fall. Of course we continue our Vacation Bible School and the FBI youth groups has a wonderful puppet ministry which we hope will attract young people to join. We are also committed to the Life Quest community in providing holiday meals, gift and fellowship. We alsoprovide a wonderful “Family Movie Night”. So I can say that we are not hunkering down and do not have a “bunker mentality”. Still something is bugging me, somehow we missing something, an essential need in our communities that can best be met by our churches.
How do we discover this need and begin to address it? I sense it is sitting directly in front of us and I’m just too preoccupied with other issues to recognize it. Even if we knew what that need was are we capable of fulfilling it? Churches can’t ask for a $7,000,000.00 bond issue or hire a team of professional people to manage the ministry. We are dependent on offerings and volunteers, not treasury bonds and professional managers. So even if we knew what the great need is in our communities, do we have the resources to engage in that ministry?
I think we do. I sense this in part because I’m a naive optimist and too stubborn to believe otherwise. But the real reason is because I have trust in God. I said trust not faith. Faith is acknowledging that God can do anything. Trust is knowing that he will. Faith is asking God to make it rain. Trust is holding an umbrella when we ask Him. We worship a covenantal God whose promises’ are for eternity. Faith is an essential component of our relationship with God and each other. Faith is confirmed by the covenant which God gave to us through the patriarchs, the prophets and the sacraments. Trust is when our faith is tested and the covenants are fulfilled. If we have only faith then we are resigned to a bunker waiting for the inevitable end. However trust pushes us beyond the confines of our fortress and sends us to challenge the gates of Hades.
” And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Jesus is telling Peter to be on the offensive, not to defend the faith from behind fortress walls which will fall, but to trust in God’s call to attack the powers which separate us from Him. While this metaphor may seem warlike and conjure images of hostility and aggression, that is not how we can challenge the things which threaten our communities. Our adversaries are apathy, indifference, complacency and ignorance. And our weapons are passion, knowledge, understanding, compassion, faith, hope, trust and love.
However all of these resources are useless without one thing: People. Specifically Christians who seek to be the church Jesus commissioned Peter to be. The needs of our community may be a PAWS, or an active Christians men’s organization. It may be greater public expression of our faith with worship service outside our churches. Perhaps we need to renew the Sunday school programs and encouraging young adults to bring their children to them. It can’t be done with a bond issue or hiring professional. It can be done through your giving and your discipleship. And if we can’t do it with current members then we need to seek out new one as Jesus did when He called them to be “fishers of men”. What is needed is to discover the needs of our communities and empower our members and those outside our church with the resources to fulfill those needs.
This can be a slow process which can be discouraging and appear to have minimal returns. The effort to be an evangelical congregation will not guarantee success, however to do little or nothing does guarantees failure. Some may argue that we no longer have the people to fulfill the work required. I respectfully disagree however I would be naive to believe that we do not need new people. What is required in a revival of our present congregation to reach out to the unchurched people of our community and create a house of worship which they want to belong to.
We are engaged in many ministries that should bear fruit. Perhaps what we need to do is to impassioned people to step out from behind the walls of our fortress, invite others to join in our ministry and provide opportunities for people to encounter God and serve Him in the real world. I pray you will want to be a part of this effort and will share your thoughts and your resources to do so.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same[b] Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.(1 Corinthians 12:4-11″