I try to avoid myself writing about specific visits and conversations, especially right after they happen. I don’t want the party to think that I’m reacting to them or talking about them. Same in preaching – hopefully I don’t preach “to someone” because of something they’ve done or said.
However, I’m fairly confident that the subjects of this blog won’t read this blog, but I’ll reveal nothing here that I didn’t already tell them.
I had a wonderful visit this morning with a dear senior couple in our church. I called and asked to visit and they graciously hosted me for about an hour – the first time I’ve got to visit them. And we talked, and shared. Got to know each other. Heard about the things in our lives – where we’ve come from, where we’re at, where we’re going. This particular couple, though they have been attending church for a bit, acknowledge that they are unable to serve with the enthusiasm that they once served with. She’s 88 (she told me) and he didn’t volunteer his age, but I assume he’s within a reasonable distance of her age. They said something though that piqued my interest.
“We just sometimes feel like we’re just taking up space.”
I gathered that they have this notion that because they are unable to physically serve, that they are somewhat useless to the local Body of Christ. And you better believe I started protesting their notion and reminded them of just how wonderful and valuable they are to their pastor, their church, and the Kingdom. But still, I can’t help but to wonder how many apparent “pew-warmers” end up not serving because they don’t want to, but because they are unable to. And additionally, how many of those folks feel as if their spiritual stock has been lowered because the years have gone by, and have taken away from them the ability to do as much as they once did.
It’s little secret that the culture of the church has changed in the last 20-40 years.
Sunday night services are disappearing (and contrary to popular belief, the presence or absence of a Sunday evening service is not an indicator of that church’s worth and obedience to God).
People don’t wear 3 piece suits to services anymore.
Not everyone brings their Bible to church.
Many who come don’t come to other church activities, including discipleship groups like Sunday School.
Many who come don’t volunteer in needed areas, like choir and childcare.
This isn’t unique to my church or to your church. Our church culture has changed. But I think some of the changes are good changes.
40 years ago, the church “wouldn’t put up with that.” In many cases, you had to adhere to a certain set of expectations to be in the church. And if you broke rank in those expectations, you could expect to be ostracized, even shunned.
Today, many churches are safer for people who aren’t like us, but who Christ still came to save. True, it is easier to come in and just occupy a pew on Sunday mornings. True, it is more possible to “slip between the cracks” and to avoid small group discipleship. There are pros and cons to the way church is now.
One thing I was taught by many people growing up was to “dress my best for God” and to “be in the church every time the doors were opened.” But the negative side to those teachings that were so common up to about the 1980’s there was that I began to associate those things with my own spiritual health and well-being. I could never be “good enough” to go to church, let alone know Christ.
I would perhaps say to myself, “Mr. Smith isn’t here every Sunday. He must not be a good Christian.”
“Mr. Jones lets his kids wear jeans to church. They must not be good Christians.”
“That dude is wearing a hat in a church building!! Someone take him away!”
And while those things may seem far-fetched to some of us today, we have to remember – that was the way many of us were raised. And it has been difficult enduring the culture change of the church.
And so today, I was in the living room of a couple who, like many people, were feeling down on their own spiritual walk because they can’t teach Sunday School, be at Christmas productions, and sing in the choir. Because, in essence, they can’t be in church every time there is an activity. And I encouraged them as much as I knew how, because they are more valuable to our Body than they know! They are prayer warriors. They are model Christians to young people. They have a model marriage to young married couples. They are a model of a life lived in service to God, and lives that have been blessed by God.
And not only that, they are truly loving. Instead of being bitter about the culture change, and instead of lamenting the “demise of the church,” as many people call it, they are still excited about what God is doing. “I pray for my Sunday School class, the church, and my pastor every day” she told me.
A church’s health isn’t about whether it has a Sunday evening service, a large choir, frequent productions, a ministry for every age group, or a vibrant preacher. A church can have every one of these things and still be missing it. Those things can be good, but they aren’t what we’re after.
A church’s health is about its desire to surrender both corporately and individually to God’s will. And though our church isn’t trendy, we don’t have fog machines, we don’t have a worship band, we don’t have stage lights, we don’t have a coffee shop, and we don’t have a Krispy Kreme in the foyer (God help us if we did!), we have one thing that is bigger, better, and greater than all of those things! We have people who are serious about giving up what we want, in favor of what God wants. And they are teaching me how to do so every day.
So thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Subjectofthisblog. Thank you for having a humble and willing heart to say, “I wish we could do more” even though you know you’re unable to. Thank you for allowing me to visit. Thank you for allowing me, as a person less than half your age, to say to your statement, “You aren’t useless! In fact, you are valuable, you are loved, you are precious, and you are my brother and sister.”
I would rather have 10 of you than 100 “cool people.”