In the American church, we’ve talked about our decline for decades. Both conservatives and liberals have had their chances to blame the other for the decay. I’d say that’s been part of our problem. Which means we’ve been a part of the problem.
Not worship preferences. Not giving. Not vision. Us.
Of course, we don’t ignore what’s happening to our churches. It’s impossible to do so. So, what do we do?
In past times, depending on who it was that was leaving, churches might have been willing to change things. Then there are those of us who ensured we “stick to our guns.” No matter what we did, part of the hope was we’d attract the right kind of members. You know, the right members who have the right kind of jobs. They also come with the right kind of money or resources. We also love their right willingness to do our work.
If our ministry hearts flutter at the right kind of people, we’re missing the mark.
Part of what we can do, then, is shift our focus. No more trying to charm the right kind of people to church. Instead, let’s nurture the right kind of attitude within ourselves.
The images of Isaiah 41 are helpful for that. There are, at least, two. First, God calls the people a worm. That’s not defaming or insulting. It’s a reminder of what power we truly have before God. God says to the worm, “I myself will help you” (Isaiah 41:14). The Holy One will help the lowly one. Thanks be to God!
And how will God help? The Lord says, “I will make you into a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth” (Isaiah 41:15). God won’t do the work. God will forge the people into the right and new tool for the job.
There’s no magic to the process of faithful ministry or discipleship. Love, trust and obedience go the distance. The more we try to exert control over God’s church, the more we remain part of the problem. We’ll discover the solutions and wisdom necessary to lead God’s church as we let God mold us into the right tools.