Jump Start # 3086
Jeremiah 6:17 “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet but they said, ‘We will not listen.’”
Recently, I had a conversation with two different people about how things were going in their congregations. I like to hear success stories. I like to hear ideas that can help us. I want the kingdom to grow and grow and grow. But in both conversations, the tone was dark. Hearts were depressed. Things were not going well. Both individuals, in different places, felt stuck. We talked. Being the one who loves to fix things, offer ideas, suggestions and “have you tried this,” was all put forth. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck. That was the feeling.
Our verse comes to mind, but then it doesn’t. The Jeremiah passage dealt with a nation that was doing wrong. Idolatry had filled the veins and the heart of God’s people. Judgment was swiftly moving their way. It was time to stop and return. They would not. They would not return. They would not listen. They would not change.
The conversations I had wasn’t about churches doing “wrong” things. That’s a completely different conversation. Here, it was putting life into lifelessness. It was moving beyond traditions to a new level of depth, hope and growth. Contentment quickly becomes complacency and that’s where these people were. They could see the potential. They know how great things could be. But very few others saw that. It’s like a school teacher who has a very talented student, but he doesn’t want to excel. What a waste of talent. What opportunities are slipping by.
What can we do, was the plea put before me. Here are some thoughts:
First, grass root movements typically do not fair well in a congregation. Most are viewed as threats to the leadership and are stopped about as quickly as they started. Change needs to come from the top down. The leadership needs to lead in this area. Most don’t. Most don’t see the need to change. Most are happy with the way things are. Suggestions, ideas and pleas fall upon deaf ears. And the feeling of being stuck, stuck, stuck rises.
How does one move leaders to think about making things better? Put material in their hands. Suggest guest speakers who understand how things could be better. Have a sit down one on one with each of the shepherds and talk. Suggest they visit other places that seem to be doing more.
Second, threats, pressure and splitting a congregation are not the best choices. That most often does not accomplish what is needed. It’s not another congregation, it’s a better us. Proverbs tells shepherds to “know well the condition of their flock.” Many don’t. They don’t know what others are feeling. They don’t sense some are “stuck spiritually.” I have found that most shepherd a congregation the way they saw it from the men before them. We just hand the baton on, from generation to generation, with very little thought about making things better. Having studies about these kind of topics are helpful. Looking at Ezekiel 34, 1 Thes. 5:14 and other passages makes one realize that the 32,000 foot view of the church misses many things. Assuming everyone is fine is often a mistaken assumption. Good men have been appointed shepherds without realizing that they must raise the bar on themselves if they want the church to do better. Having studies and opening eyes to what the Bible teaches is the best place to start. Progress will be slow. Baby steps are hard at first. But this is where it must begin.
Third, praying to the Lord for things to improve is a must. Invite the Lord in. Having families in your home, for singings, Bible studies will generate some interests, life and hope. Patience through all of this is necessary. Most congregations took a while to get in that “stuck” position and it often takes even longer getting them out. Some people are afraid of change. Some are afraid to look different from the other congregations in the area. Sticking with the Bible, keep teaching, showing and offering Biblical suggestions. Don’t expect others to fix everything. Offer yourself. Offer your home. Offer your services. Be part of the solution.
I have been stuck before. I have been stuck spiritually before. It’s not a fun place to be. It’s hard to get excited about the Lord. It’s hard to be evangelistic when you feel stuck. Stuck leads to going through the motions and that is not where one wants to be.
In our world today, congregations easily can become global. The means to put out blogs, podcasts and videos are fingertips away. It takes some planning, dreams and work but it can be done. Too whom much as been give, much is required, is what our Lord said. The opportunities to do more and more are there. It’ll take some leadership, some organization, some money and some work. But won’t it be worth it.
But even in a stuck congregation, one can serve and honor the Lord. Our relationship with Jesus is not wrapped around the wellbeing of a congregation. Sardis was dead, yet there were some there who were walking with the Lord. Don’t allow the complacency of others to fill your heart. Expect the best. Give the Lord your all.
I would even suggest printing this Jump Start and handing it to the leaders and saying, “This is how I feel. Can you read this and can we have a conversation about this later?” Then follow that up. Get some dates on the book and begin the process of talking.
Stuck…stagnate…stale…that’s no place to be. It’s not in our homes, our marriages, our hearts nor in our congregations. God deserves the best and we must step up and give Him our best by doing our best.
Can I help?