Three steps higher than the rest of our church’s sanctuary, Carol and I noted how much hotter the air felt in just that slightly elevated area where we took our turn as elders during our Sunday worship service. We had a big week ahead; we’d been preparing for Bible school for several weeks, but this was it. The coming week promised to bring us 90-degree weather. Both of us excited, we braced ourselves for the inevitable trials that would occur.
I remember hearing Carol say, “If just one family, who brings their child to Bible school, starts coming to church, we will have done well.”
Like nearly every church that hasn’t adopted the sound of today’s music and other, more up to date ways of worship, we struggle to keep up with the times. Attendance always dwindling in the summer, this was not the best time to look at numbers, yet we remained hopeful.
I looked at numbers anyway: one church, I’d heard, had only four at their Bible school; another, I’d learned, had from 16 to as many as 28 over their week’s course.
Carol posted a flier every place she could beat feet to. We sent our information to the local newspaper. When, at the end of our registration hour we had 11 enrolled, I could feel a general let down as we plowed through a few rough spots and finally brought things to a close after our first day.
At home, hours later, I thought back over our hours of planning and gathering of materials for Bible school, the things I wished I’d done differently that first day, and I remembered an article I’d read about a religiously divided community of Northern Ireland. The story expressed the gratitude of the Rev. Gary Mason, pastor of the East Belfast Mission, who said, “… the mission can never repay the groups from the United States that support the mission with their time and money.”
Most memorable was Mason’s pointed quote, “Too many churches never engage with the chaos of life. Our faith must spill out onto the street.”
We needed to consider his words. Instead of making plans for times in the church building that my church family is so comfortable in, our congregation – small though it is – has got to think outside those walls in order to perhaps bring a few new people back inside with us.
Isn’t that the point of it all, anyway? Maybe I should be less concerned with our plans that always bring us to our standard place of fellowship and concentrate on the way I reach out to the world around me everyday, every place I may be.
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