(June 23, 2017)
Our Presbyterian Church (USA) is BLESSED with creative, amazing people of integrity, intelligence and deep Spirit. And I have been humbled to sit among them today as we looked at – and prayed for – people in our churches who are scared and sometimes hopeless as they wonder where God is calling them. It’s confusing to not be able to see where Spirit is leading because you’ve been so focused on returning to life as we knew it when we were growing up.
Let me just say that our denomination is developing a multi-year plan for how to help congregations figure out their call, and, having figured it out, map out a way to proceed — whether that involves selling their building or not.
One thing I read today was a series of questions to help determine how healthy a faith community was. These were some of the question to prompt self-reflection:
- Does Christian formation in your church lead people to change the way they live? i.e. schedule time, spend money, give resources, see different people, serve, spend time with family, have conversations with friends.
- Are people of all ages being challenged in assumptions, growing in understanding, respectfully dialoguing, learning the language of faith and teaching one another?
- Does the study of Scripture influence the mission and ministry of your church?
- Are faithful habits being translated to daily living?
- Does the Word of God permeate all aspects of life together?
I know what I think as the pastor — and what I observe, but what do YOU think?
Where are YOU on your spiritual journey?
And if this is NOT how you are reacting in your own spiritual life, what would help you to do so? What would it take for you to move into this healthy behavior?
I think that we tend to just go on about our lives when it comes to church … we get up and go most of the time, we sit and participate, we listen to scripture, sing the songs and pray the prayers. But when we were younger, we weren’t always expected to DO anything about our faith. We just sort of coasted along.
Yet that is NOT what the Bible describes. In there, we hear about people whose lives are CHANGED and made better by their encounter with Jesus.
If I’m really honest about my own faith journey and practices, there are times that I don’t WANT to have to change. It takes too much work. I don’t want to have to be bothered to do things differently. I have to THINK about it too much. So I can only guess that some of you feel that way, too.
But friends, EVERYTHING is changing.
Schools are closing because the number of students has dropped and it’s not practical to keep them open.
Groups (gyms, fraternal organizations, etc.) are losing membership.
Today we talked about “vitality” and what that means. It’s MORE than just life. We saw a picture of a church in NYC that was built in the 1840’s. Throughout its history there has been a lot of life in and around it … people milling about … programs going on. And now, it is a high end Chinese restaurant. Is that the kind of life we want for our churches? Of course not. The church is not the building!
If we are talking about church vitality, we are talking about the energy and excitement that is present in the Body of Christ, i.e. the Believers … the members … those who are part of the community of faith. And that’s precisely why those questions above are pretty good indicators about your spiritual life.
Frankly, I’m betting that most people in South Church — in ALL of our Acts of Faith — answer more of the questions in the affirmative than in the negative because we FEEL the Presence of the Holy Spirit and we are learning how to live the life that is foreign to what we grew up with.
For that, I am grateful.
To God be the glory. Let’s keep trying to improve the quality of our Spiritual lives. What d’you think?
Have a good night, everybody!