Something I'm beginning to find out is that "bigger" is not always better. A particular institution, practice, or belief system doesn't automatically become good just because it is practiced by a large number of people. And as a result of this, there are admittedly times where I feel like the cynic who once said that democracy is like three wolves and one sheep voting on what's for lunch!
Part of this thought process comes from some recent experiences in which I have challenged something that is just, well, wrong - to be told that many others are in the same boat, "we've all had to go through this", etc, etc. If something is wrong, it's wrong! If it's wrong when done by (or to) one person, having the same thing done by (or to) 100 people doesn't suddenly make it right.
In some way this feeling is being aggravated by my uncertainty about next year - something that I have already prepared a blog post for, but at this stage I don't feel at liberty to publish it. Maybe at a later stage. But for the most part, it's a spiritual struggle.
For instance, how is it that I live in a country where the overwhelming majority of the population claims to be Christian, yet there is so much rampant crime, corruption, and a general breakdown in moral values? Closer to home, I see this in the community I currently serve, where every Sunday there are overwhelming numbers of people, all decked out in their Sunday best, Bible in hand, (presumably) off to church. Yet in this same community there is untold misery caused by all manners of social ills.
Jenny is struggling with many similar questions over on her blog, as evidenced by the posts Incurably Religious and They need to be converted! And like me, she is questioning how a large grouping can be apparently so devoid of spirituality.
In my own congregations, where I am in the process of implementing a stewardship campaign, the main emphasis of what I am trying to teach is not money as such but our relationship with Jesus. For if its about the minister / society stewards / ward leaders demanding that people give, we're wasting our time. If it's about how we respond to the love of Jesus by giving of our time, our talents, our service, our prayers - the very essence of who we are - then our giving will become one of spontaneous generosity. I used the analogy of a person who supports their family, not out of duty or because "the law says so", but out of a deep love for their family.
So I guess that what I'm trying to say is this: Going to church every Sunday is not what makes us Christians. You can spend a lifetime in the garage, but you will never become a car! Jesus tells His disciples that people will know them as followers of Him not by their uniforms, eloquent preaching, or the number of meetings they attend, but by their love for one another.
The challenge for us as ministers - indeed, our very calling - is to help our congregations understand and embrace this reality. For it's only when Jesus becomes part not only of Sunday, but of Monday to Saturday as well, will our lives truly be transformed.
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