“The difficulties of our present do not predict or constrain the future God has for his people. Life and ministry can be hard. Churches struggle with the realities of aging congregations and rapidly changing communities. Where our nation once culturally embraced Christianity, now our faith is often regarded with indifference and hostility.” (Renewed, Leigh Powers, pg 119)
Reaching our communities for Christ looks different than it did when I was a child, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, yet our need for salvation and love remain unchanged. We may find more relateable ways to share the Gospel, but the Gospel is the same.
Our last church was very traditional in their actions and presentation. They were content to keep their worship music to hymns and 50 year old choruses. The order of service was predictable. When we first began attending (before my husband was hired as the pastor), it was unassuming and comfortable. It was peaceful. The people were just so happy to have a young family join them. They didn’t expect anything of us. We could simply attend and not feel pressured to become involved.
When my husband was eventually hired on as the pastor, one board member told him that he was their ‘last kick at the cat’. They knew that they were in decline. We knew that this church was on life-support and needed revitalization. They knew they needed numbers, but they expected their pastor to be in the community to forge those new relationships. Most of the congregation absolved themselves from being formally involved in evangelism. There were a few who recognized the need and felt burdened enough to join my husband’s efforts. They were usually the newest attendees/members and changed over from one year to the next.
It is hard to remain hopeful for a church to turn around when apathy and reluctance saturate the hearts of God’s people. It didn’t take long for self-absorption and personal agendas to take over the vision for the church. One new family couldn’t convince a young man from another family to marry their daughter, so they left. Another family followed them, a two to three year long pattern that they had followed through their previous 2 churches. They are both attending the same (larger) church in another community now. Of course, other reasons were given for their leaving, but it didn’t stop the rumors. My husband was blamed for their leaving. Other complaints on worship, prayer, and sermon emphasis on evanglism and salvation were included on pastoral reviews through our years there.
“If your present is challenging, hold on to hope. God has already decreed the end of our stories. Don’t lose heart. God has not abandoned his people – and he has not forgotten you.” (Ibid, pg 120)
God has not forgotten His Bride.
Even these churches that ignore their mandate, oust their pastors, forget their purpose or how to achieve it… God has not forgotten them.
God will not forget us. He will not leave us or forsake us. We are not without hope.
May we not forget why He gives us hope.
Will we pass His Hope on to others?