I have learned much through my experiences but I thought that as I am now looking back on a full two years in the pastorate, it would be good to reflect just a bit and share some of the life that I have been blessed with. I am going to try and share piece by piece and actually start a conversation - as opposed to posting a seven page essay that nobody will take the time to read. I really hope that I achieve the intended purpose; and I encourage you to join the conversation.
So here goes - let's look back on a few things that I have learned over the past two years and let's start out with something I have learned about "church" just last week.
Last week, just before the 10AM service, I received a test message from a person who had been attending Churchtown but had decided to attend no more. I had already pretty much understood this to be the case given the fact that they had dropped out of sight over the previous month and pretty much had been avoiding all contact. What made the person decide to share this with me just prior to a worship service, I have no idea; but I will say this - every week there seems to be SOMETHING placed in front of me to throw me off, to distract me from my prayers and my focus on the Christ. Every week. I believe you pastors know what I am talking about.
This week, I must say, the devil nearly succeeded. I was truly affected by the text message and the thoughts started flowing...why? What did I do wrong? Of all the many people that stop into Churchtown, why do so few stay? Is this worth the kind of discouragement that I feel at this moment? I carried this mood and these thoughts into the worship service - very melancholy to say the least - then a miracle happened. The "service" turned into a prayer meeting and the prayer meeting turned into an open, extended conversation between me and the congregation. We talked and we sang and we prayed and I preached for about an hour. It was amazing and wonderful and one of the most unique experiences of my life. I was worshiping through it like I have never worshiped before, and I felt more lifted and affirmed than I ever have in my life. (thank You God)
Now, what is it that I learned? About half way through this experience The Holy Spirit revealed to me this fact... there are people who attend a church wondering exactly what it is that the church can do for them; and there are people who submit to Christ and wonder what it is that they can do for His Body on earth. I realized that I was standing among folks who had dedicated themselves to Christ and as a result, do not sit in the pews waiting for church to "happen" to them - they are the living, breathing, laughing, crying, bickering, moving, loud, annoying, precious, precocious, and above all loving body of Christ on earth.
What can Church "do" for folks? The answer is nothing. And if you are looking for a church to meet your needs, you are guaranteed to look and look and look - sometimes you might stay for a year, sometimes maybe several; but just like any relationship that is based on our selfish desire to have our needs met, there will come a time when that is no longer possible. So we move from marriage to marriage, from job to job, from church to church, until we die - never having been fulfilled by that perfect experience.
There comes a time when you must stop asking "what can the church do for me?" and respond to your Lord as such, "Jesus, I love you. What can I do for your body on earth?" You might just be surprised to find out that Satan has indeed been lying to you all this time - you really aren't the star of this movie after all. In fact, it's not even about you - period.