Of Elijah, my dream church and what I really love to do….
I want to pose a question. I hope you will appreciate where it is coming from. It comes from a place of frustration. My last fellowship was everything I dreamed a body would be. Focused on showing love to others, we were creative in everything we did. I was not constrained with so much of the baggage that existed in the tribe of my youth. We had the freedom to do so much and I leveraged that freedom.
Clothes closets, medical clinics, tutoring for the disadvantaged, if there was a way to show people love we had the freedom to do it. It was my absolute dream church. And it almost killed me. Spiritually. Almost turned me into a mumbling, unusable saint in the Kingdom of our God.
Doesn’t even seem logical does it? You might question my sanity. You had the church of your dream and you walked away? Yes. Well, I would like to think God called me away before it destroyed me.
I hear the echoes of what almost killed me in so many places. I was invited to share our churches story. To go around and try to inspire others congregations to follow our lead. No one was really interested. They loved the stories. They were really impressed. They usually became even more amazed when they discovered the size of our fellowship. But none of them started their own construction ministry for the elderly or car repair program for the disadvantaged.
No. They said thank you, you are inspiring, now will you allow us to return to our regular scheduled Christian experience. Here is the thing. In the end after seven years it wasn’t even the people at “other” churches who were saying this. It was the people in my own fellowship. Darin can we go back? Can you stop. We have had enough. Not all of the people. Don’t misunderstand. There are a great core group of people at the church that I will always love. But the majority of people over those years? Not even close. And it was killing me. Can we get with it and be about what a church is supposed to be about and knock off all of this love other people selflessly stuff. Tell us how God wants us to be happy and filled. This whole love your neighbor is getting old.
How do I know this? They voted with their feet. In droves. I haven’t even mentioned the community. Don’t you know what a church that loves the poor does? Exactly, it attracts poor people. We are the cool community. The up and coming community. The destination place. Leave the poor at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, let her have the huddled masses. Too far? Tulsa will do.
If you are still with me, here is the question. What is your focus? Because for me my focus was wrong. I was wrong because I allowed a community to kill me. The core group loved the mission but I kept looking at all those who said no. I allowed them to starve my soul. To pull me so far down that frustration became my life. My focus was wrong.
If you are there, can I be blunt? Can I tell you something that might spare you? You know who I sounded like? I sounded just like Elijah as recorded in 1 Kings 19. I began to look at what wasn’t, instead of on what was. I began to think it was my job to move people instead of to faithfully follow God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Elijah whined. I whined. Elijah complained. I complained. Elijah listed all that he did for God’s glory. I have listed my efforts for God’s glory. Elijah thought he was the only real follower of God. Well, I think you get my point. I saw the apathy of the American Church and I threw up my hands. The comfort of life in America. Suburbia. I have pointed to what I saw as apathy.
How did God respond? He gave Elijah further instructions and let Elijah know that even though he felt alone, he was not alone. That even though he saw apathy and unbelief he couldn’t see it all.
I rejoice today because I know of so many who have not bowed a knee. Who seek to bring honor to the name of Jesus. Those across our nation who seek to love their neighbor in extravagant ways. Those are the people I’m worried about. Focused on. I am thankful for the gentle reminder. Not in a storm or fire but a whisper. A whisper that says get back in the game. I have a plan.
As a school year ends I am thankful. Thankful for the opportunity to read with students in need. The chance to serve lunches and give away donuts. Thankful to be involved with the entire community of faith. Thankful that I get to go fishing with members of the church.
I am thankful that I’m no longer worried about fixing all the Christians. I’m thankful my job is loving in my little corner of the world like Jesus would. It took me awhile and a turn that I never saw coming but I’m glad. I’m glad because I feel at home where I live, trying to love these people. What about you?