It’s Complicated

For the most part, our church pays more attention to the church calendar than the calendar of Hallmark-inspired holidays. So our gathering Sunday will be focused on the fourth week of Easter. But without question, the elephant in the room will be Mother’s Day.

Throughout my years of ministry, Mother’s Day at church has always been, how shall I say, complicated.

Complicated.

Some families will have three, maybe four, generations of happy mothers with their children. Others will be mourning the fresh loss of a mother or grandmother.

Complicated.

Some mothers will be snuggling their second or third baby while other women will be silently suffering infertility, miscarriages, or stillbirths.

Complicated.

Some will enter the gathering with thanksgiving for a tender, loving mother who taught them about and showed them the kindness and grace of God. Others will come, dragging behind them heavy memories of being assaulted, neglected, abandoned, or abused by the one person above all who they should have been able to trust.

Complicated.

And with a day this complicated, what could be better than a fourth week of remembering, wrestling with, and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

A Front Row Seat

Love one another. We read it repeatedly in Scripture. Last week I had a front row seat to watch several people in our church family love one another. They loved generously. They loved unselfishly. They loved sincerely. They loved stubbornly. They loved hopefully. They loved sacrificially. I’m so thankful for a church family that shows me what love is all about. Love one another.

Basics

Sadly, the ABC’s of many churches are attendance, buildings, and cash. While some think it encouraging to experience a big crowd, enjoy an attractive campus, and wield an impressive wad of cash, that should not be the focus of the church. Instead, the church should live for praising God and encouraging people to grow into the likeness of Jesus. Back to basics: love God, love people.

Church as a Relational Lab

Dan White Jr. writes, “Churches have built compounds for cognitive learning rather than relational labs for conversing, listening and practicing.” Blessed is the church that realizes there is more to spiritual formation than cognitive learning. There is a relational lab to be built by sharing small talk and deep conversations, partnering for prayer, listening deeply, and serving shoulder to shoulder.

Laundromat Bans Dirty Laundry

News outlets recently published a story with the headline above.

The owner of a laundromat actually posted signs banning dirty clothes in his establishment. To make matters more interesting, he also owns a car wash where he banned dirty trucks.

Why? People who had been his loyal customers for 15 or 20 years were tired of dealing with the messes left behind in the laundromat and the car wash by some of the new customers.

Churches don’t usually put up signs banning messy people. They don’t have to. Ministers and members can communicate the message without posting a sign.

“No messy people allowed.”

Why? The messes left behind by some of the new prospective members are just too much to deal with. The members who have been loyal for 15 or 20 years are offended.

Or…the leaders decide that new prospective members will never find their church attractive as long as the messy members are allowed to stay around, even if they have been around for 15 or 20 years.

Imagine a church where messy people are welcomed with open arms.

 

Dreams

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Psalm 126:1-4

Jewish pilgrims making their way to the temple sang “psalms of ascent” (Psalms 120-134) to prepare for worship. Psalm 126 was a psalm of ascent celebrating renewal after a season of barrenness. They had been through a difficult time, whether from famine, assault, plague, or captivity; but now it was time to dream again. This song recalled God’s faithfulness to bring them through the time of trial and encouraged the pilgrims to dream again about what the future could look like.

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev” was the poetic vision statement of their dreams for the future.

Remember how Martin Luther King cast a vision for the future in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

Like the ancient pilgrims and other visionaries, churches need to dream. Lafayette needs to recall, even celebrate God’s faithfulness in leading us during difficult times. We need to dream about what the future could look like with God leading us and doing great things among us.

Do you have a dream?

I encourage you to dream. Maybe you will dream in creative, poetic language like the psalmist. Maybe you will dream in hopeful word pictures like Dr. King. Whatever your style, I urge you to cast a vision of what your church can look like in the years to come.

Maybe starting with these words will help stimulate your creativity—

Restore our church’s fortunes, Lord, like….

I have a dream that at our church….

May God’s faithfulness inspire creative dreaming as you seek God’s vision for what your church can look like in the years to come.

To God be the glory!