During a recent staff meeting I shared a devotion that truly inspired me! I think what struck me the most about the words that I read was that they really made me think about some of the struggles our congregation, and other Christian churches, appear to be dealing with in regards to decline in worship attendance and the apparent lack of people willing to step up to participate as active members of the body of Christ. Although I know that there isn’t necessarily one exact answer to be found as to why this trend is happening, I do think that Alvin Rogness, in his book The Word for Every Day, has some wonderful words of encouragement that address these two issues.
First of all, these days I know that people have all kinds of things going on in their lives! The kids have countless activities that they participate in: from Boy Scouts to dance, and from karate to that softball game at school, their extracurricular activities abound. I am also well aware that it takes a lot of time and energy to put food on the table and to pay the bills these days. Parents often need to put in a lot of hours at work to be successful, to get ahead, so they can provide for their families. What surprises me the most, however, is that when we are faced with having to cut certain things out of our lives so that we can find some form of sanity and/or relaxation often times God and Christ church are neglected as people decide to skip worship, give less, or they fail to volunteer by sharing the gifts they have been given that might benefit the church body.
In the devotional that I shared at our staff meeting Alvin Rogness talks about the importance of family, especially the big family of God that we are each brought into on the day of our baptism. He reminds the reader that, “God loans us to each other to love one another,” and that sometimes, as a family we need to be “lost in love of God and neighbor.” With all of the activities and things demanding our attention, in order for us to be successful at doing this, I think we need to take a good hard look at our priorities. After all, if we truly want to be Disciples of Christ, if we want to grow in our faith and in our relationship with God and one another, we seriously need to think about where God falls on our list of concerns. Is he number one in our lives or does he have little to no influence on what we decide to do, or not do, daily in this world?
I believe that Alvin Rogness says it best when he writes, “If you are a parent, remember that, more than anyone else, you will determine the outcome of your child’s life. If making money and having fine things are your important concerns, these are the values your children will have. If you are indifferent about church, it will be difficult for them to take God and his will seriously. If success (however that’s defined) is more important to you than honesty and compassion for others, you’ll probably have children who will use people for their own purposes instead of being true friends.” In other words, Parents are the most influential and primary teachers in their children’s lives.
Of course, ultimately the church, Christ’s body in the world will continue to exist despite our mistakes and failures. If it was able to survive persecution, martyrdom, the Crusades, and some of the darker and shameful events that are often associated with Christianity, we can trust that God’s body on Earth will continue to live on. Nevertheless, I still think we need to do all that we can to make God and our discipleship a significant part of our lives. As Sunday school begins next month (we are still looking for teachers and helpers), as Confirmation commences (we will need mentors and small group leaders), as we launch a new worship schedule on Labor Day weekend (5:00pm every Saturday, and 8:30am every Sunday), I hope you will think about the bigger family that you are a part of and that you will strive to make God and the body of Christ you belong to a priority!