There are two churches in town, St John and St Paul. On the outside it seems that they are both pretty much the same. They both have a nice pastor and a nice sermon and worship services that are on the more traditional side. But they are two very different churches. Even at this stage with the pandemic, St Johns seems to have a sense of life and optimism while St Paul seems a bit discouraged.
Both churches are concerned about getting people back in worship. It has been a problem for all churches or so it seems. The members in the core have returned (mostly) while others are returning more slowly and some not at all. This is not an unusual problem. So why are they so radically different?
St Paul is talking about it amongst themselves and it is obvious that they feel one way about “those of us who are back to ‘faithful’ worship” and different way about “those who are not obeying God.” Some have noticed that the offering plate is less full because of it. They talk about it in Bible class and in the narthex and by the coffee pot on Sunday morning. They quote verses like, “Let us not give up meeting together as some have a habit of doing” from Hebrews 10:25. Others quote the third commandment, “remember the Sabbath day.”
The pastor and people at St John are talking about it differently. One day the pastor began to ask the people “how can we be the church to those who aren’t here yet?” That sparked a lot of conversation. They knew they had less opportunities to meet people at church in person. The chit chat before church just wasn’t possible in the pandemic and they even went without communion for a while. Some people don’t have email or cell phones or even internet to watch the services. So what could they do?
Then someone, it was probably Margaret, a wise mature Christian who said, “we still have the Word of God and prayer.” That got people thinking. If folks won’t or can’t come because of internet challenges, then we can certainly go to them. “How?” Edward asked. “We can call them on the telephone” Sherry said. “Who do we call?” Asked Donna. “Well, we’ve got maybe 45 households that have not returned to church.” Said the pastor. “We can call them and just check in on them, not to guilt them to come back! But to love them.” “We can do it every week” said Jim. “I do that as it is now” said Lois. The others clapped!
Everyone agreed that they would be happy to just call and say hello. The pastor helped with a little orientation to how to do it. They didn’t want to twist anyone’s arms but just to call and genuinely say hello. They offered to share a Bible verse from the lessons that pastor would pick out and ask if they had any prayer requests. As the weeks went on, you wouldn’t believe the friendships that were renewed and how people appreciated the calls. A couple asked them to stop but most grew close. They got to talking about their families and over time, their cares and concerns. The callers assured them of confidentiality and would ask permission to share the prayer request. Many callers would even say a simple prayer before they hung up. All callers would ask on their next call how God was answering their prayers. You would’t believe the amazing stories people told about how God was showing up.
As weeks turned into months, “call-ers” turned into “pray-ers.” Those prayed for came closer to Jesus and became worshippers. Those stories shared were retold from the lectern at church from the people who experienced God’s love in answering prayer. Those 45 households turned into 130 as people began to include others from their circle of relationships who were alone or were far from God. What a blessing! God’s Word was at work and His people were praying!
St Pauls is a good church with good people, but they are still struggling. St John’s Lutheran church on the other hand is filled with life and optimism all because they asked and answered the question, “how can we be the church to those who aren’t here yet?”
How will you answer that question? Which church are you in 2021?
Rev. Scott Gress is believes in Growing People for Ministry by focussing on leadership, discipleship and teamwork. Contact Scott if you are interested in him working with you or your church. A free 30 minutes sample session is available to explore how you might work best together. The Coaching Leader Podcast is also available on iTunes and his YouTube page. You can contact Scott through email firstname.lastname@example.org or his blog page scottgress.com or at 561-542-4472
"Growing People for Ministry" Leadership + Discipleship + Teamwork
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