“So, how’s the church doing?”
That’s a hard question to answer. Maybe the hardest.
That question comes up often at this time of the year, because many of our seasonal visitors are here to escape the harsh winters of the north in the pleasant climate of Florida. Their question is sincere, they care about the church where they worship while away from home and they are part of our church family.
Why is it such a hard question? Because the answer is not always a positive one. As much as I would like to say we are growing, the Lord is adding to our numbers daily and many are blessed by our ministry, that isn’t what the numbers say. Attendance is down, contributions are down, and families we used to count on have vanished.
How’s the church doing? I attempt to say everything in the most positive way. Here are a few good responses:
“We’re involved in a lot of outreach ministries.”
“We’ve had a lot more visitors lately.”
“We’re hanging in there.”
OK, let’s be realistic. No church’s numbers can increase indefinitely. Even Jesus had people walk away from him. If our success is measured in yearly increases, though, who wants to speak of declining attendance, deficit budgets and a struggling Sunday School? Not me! Yet, to do otherwise would be to lie.
I’m sorry for sounding so negative. I think I just need a better answer. One not grounded in a worldly measure of success. One not crafted to guard or feed my ego. One not conceived in fear. I need an answer that is honest, humble, truthful, realistic and reassuring.
How about “forgiven?” Our past is taken care of and our future is secure. Very good news.
How about “faithful?” After all, we gather weekly around God’s gifts of grace in word and sacraments. We leave to be servants, witnesses and light in our families, communities and world. More good news.
How about “awake?” Didn’t Jesus say the one thing you don’t want to be doing when he comes is sleeping? He says, “Stay awake.” Whatever you’ve been called to be, be that person, that parent, that friend, that employee, that employer, etc.
How about “praying?” “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” A church praying is a church engaged in the battle. That’s good news.
How about “waiting?” The psalmists encouraged us to wait on the Lord. Good news, for the Lord is good to all who wait for him, plus, they renew their strength.
Go ahead and ask me how the church is doing. I’ve got a variety of answer for you, and none are tied to the numbers. They are all tied to the head of our church, Jesus himself!