April 7, 2020

Pastoral Nuggets: Recovering the Essence of Who We Are (Part 2)

Last week I wrote about the conversation happening in our area today as a result of the decision made by the United Methodist Conference to close many of its smaller churches.

In this column, I want to write about the importance of remembering our purpose.

I heard the story about a gentleman who, years ago, was walking down the street in New York City.

As he walked by one of the many businesses, he saw a sign on the sidewalk in front of one of the shops that read: “Going out of business; we forgot what our business was.” Wow! What a true statement!

When we forget what our business is – the result will be that we go out of business! And I’m afraid that in America today, many churches, across all denominational stripes and persuasions, are suffering the same fate as this business.

They are going out of business because they have forgotten what their business is!

As I write this article, I am looking at a sign on the wall in my office. I put it there as a constant reminder of my purpose, the purpose of the Troup Baptist Association, and the purpose to the individual members and member churches of the Troup Baptist Association.

It simply reads: “Win the lost. Disciple the found. Mend the broken.”

Our purpose doesn’t get any more concise than that. If we remember this, embrace this, value this, and practice this – we will stay in business.  However, if we don’t, soon enough, we will go out of business.

I want you to note that what I described above as “the business of the church” has nothing to do with the size of the church. It has nothing to do with singing songs from a hymnal or from words on the wall. It has nothing to do with whether the pastor wears a suit and tie, or skinny jeans. (Although, as fat as I am – you don’t want to see me in skinny jeans!)

It has nothing to do with whether there is a piano, organ, and choir, or a praise team with a band, or canned music. It has nothing to do with whether you call your discipleship groups Sunday School or Small Groups.

However, it has everything to do with whether you are winning the lost, discipling the found, and mending the broken. (Reread that!)

As people, churches have personalities. Different personalities appeal to different segments of society. We forget that the smaller churches appeal to a segment of society to which larger churches will never appeal. And people fulfil ministry roles in smaller churches they would never fill in a larger church. There is a closeness and comradery in smaller congregations that is often missing from larger congregations.

And there is a sense of solitude, reverence, belonging, and purpose, that again, is often missing in larger congregations. And no, I’m not being critical of larger churches! I love them too! Remember, at one point in time, every mega-church was a small church! What then am I saying? I’m saying that in your effort to be relevant in today’s world, don’t throw out the essence of who you are. In fact, that is the very thing that gives you relevance!

Many people in their forties today were raised in church. However, they grew up and grew away from their Spiritual moorings and the church.

They questioned everything they had been taught about God. As they settled into society and began raising their families, they decided to return to the church. To their shock and dismay, although the church building was the same, they discovered that in their quest for relevance, their church had discarded the essence of who they are.

The church forgot what their business was. Dismayed, not finding what they thought they expected to find, they walked away again. God forgive us!

Churches, small or large, I encourage you to remember your purpose!

Brother Aaron

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