Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Joel 2:15
So far we’ve looked at our past and the challenges and changes this congregation faced as we worked to fulfill our mission of making disciples by reaching the lost and teaching the found. For most of the history of Peace, God’s work through His people was evident, as the congregation grew and was known as the friendly church, welcoming others into our midst to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in our worship services as those gathered were strengthened in their faith through the study and proclamation of God’s Word.
Yet somewhere along the line, the focus began to move from reaching out to taking care of ourselves. It wasn’t one specific event or a series of events, but a slow fade of attitude that moved from being “others” focused to “self” focused, from caring about neighbor and community to caring about us.
Perhaps it is the influence of our culture, or relaxing after our 50th anniversary and paying off our mortgage since we ‘made it’, or the plant of our daughter congregation, or change in staff, or a number of other reasons, but one thing is for sure: the evil one is at work, turning our focus off of those who need to be connected to Jesus and His church, and turning the focus to us: what we want, what we think we need, what benefits us.
When our focus is turned inward, we are less concerned about those who need Jesus as well as those who know Jesus. We become less friendly and welcoming of outsiders, more protective of maintaining the status quo, and less and less willing to make changes for the good of the church because those changes might move us out of our comfort zone.
It’s a slow fade from a healthy, balanced congregation to an inward-focused, complacent congregation. Unless something changes, that slow fade will continue until our congregation is no longer able to maintain our programs or building and slowly fades out of existence.
So what’s the solution? Return to the Lord our God. As a church and as individuals we need to repent of our sins of selfishness and not showing our love for others. We pray that God would change our hearts, and move our focus away from ourselves and toward others who need to know Jesus’ love for them.
To be honest, this has not been an easy note to write. It’s one that I have been dreading writing from the beginning, but one that is so important for us as a congregation as we seek to be disciples who make an impact for Jesus. This repentance I write of is one that I, too, need.
Lord God, forgive us for our sinful desire to be served instead of to serve, to be loved instead of to love, to want what’s best for us instead of what’s best for the church. Forgive us, renew us, and move us from apathy to passion for You and Your mission for us. Amen