I heard a pretty kick-butt sermon today. It was no-nonsense, looking at Jesus’ final commands in the first few chapters of Acts. The main point was that as a church, we are failing to “go and preach the gospel,” through church activity and beyond. While it was definitely a sermon that needed to be preached, it sparked a mixture of responses in me.
First, I feel that there can be too much church. Now understand, our church has been struggling. We’ve dealt with some heavy issues, some change, division, and a great deal of apathy. We can hardly keep our programs afloat, our Wednesday night prayer meeting is attended by about 5 people, and evening church by about 25. Everyone shakes their heads and bemoans the fact, but too few jump in to fix anything.
I don’t want to toot my own horn, but honestly, I hover on the edge of burnout all the time. I’ve been actively involved in several programs, and I’m continually nominated for more. I’m always at church 2-3 days a week, and during various seasons that number can go way up. On top of this, I have three kids, two of whom I homeschool and a third who is now active in high school athletics. Sunday actually is my day of rest (well, after involvement in the song service and the preparation of a family meal). By Sunday afternoon, I need that down time that is so infrequent during the week, and I don’t feel guilty about rarely attending church on Sunday nights. It’s that Sabbath for the man, not the man for the Sabbath thing. (During the summer, I attend more often and feel more guilty when I don’t.) I’m on the opposite end of the activity scale and have had to learn balance. There is such thing as too much church!
The second part of that sermon, the “get out in the world and preach the gospel” part, stung a little bit more. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I don’t travel too far. Neither am I bold. I despise small talk. I wouldn’t even speak on the phone to order a pizza until college. I’m just not one to walk up to someone I don’t know and ask if they know Jesus. But I do see the check out lady, the bank teller, the librarian, the coach, my neighbors, etc. on a regular basis. My faith is no secret. But, no, I don’t actively share with these aquaintances. Ouch!
I do, however, use my sphere of influence for Christ. I run the children’s program at church, and I try to develop relationships with these non-church kids outside of the program. I see them around town. I sit by them at football games. I ask how they’re doing. I listen. I return hugs. I give rides. I encourage my kids’ teammates. I invite my kids’ friends into our home. In all these situations it’s much easier to share my faith.
I also try to be very open and transparent within my online community. As an author I have as many interactions on my laptop as I do in my own town. My faith is open knowledge, and it’s prompted some interesting discussions. Also, this blog is a place for me to share what I know and what I’m learning, and I display the link prominently on my author website.
That brings up two more emotions this sermon stirred in me this morning. I feel very insignificant. My two main ways to share the gospel are with a handful of children and a handful of readers. I’m no Kirk Cameron. My platform is very small. Also, I get discouraged that so few, so very few, show an interest when the Word is given. Kids stop coming to our Wednesday night program because it’s not as fun as staying home and watching television. Their parents don’t care. Some people online are openly hostile, aggressive even, and mocking in their responses. This is a nation that has been reached with the gospel message. But Americans have rejected it. There’s a church on every corner, as the saying goes, Christian radio, Christian television, Christian institutions, Christian literature. The gospel is widely available. And nobody seems to care. This is extremely discouraging. Sometimes I feel like, what’s the point? Yet, I know it’s not an excuse to give up.
So I guess this has ended up being sort of a hodge podge post, a very personal sorting of responses, emotions, priorities. At the end of it, I think my greatest failing isn’t really any of the above. It’s in failing to back up what I’m doing with prayer. I need to fuel my activities with God’s power or all of the above are pointless. That, I’ve concluded, is where I need to focus much more diligently.
Funny, that point wasn’t even mentioned in the sermon.