Don’t Be Afraid

It was the admonition of angels and prophets and even Jesus in Holy Scripture and most of us fail at living it:

Don’t be afraid.

As I talk with church people about everything from the pandemic to calling a new pastor, it’s clear that many are afraid.  Their biggest fears seem to be these:

  • If we don’t get back into the sanctuary soon, people will become so used to not “going to church” that they will never come back.
  • If we discuss difficult topics (like Black Lives Matter) people will leave the church.
  • If we can’t have traditional Sunday School we won’t even be a church anymore.
  • If we don’t have a new pastor by Christmas, people will find new churches.

We’ve all heard about the importance of faith over fear.  It’s in Scripture, hymns, and those fun “encouragements” you can buy at Homegoods to hang on the wall.

When I hear lifelong church people express their fears, I (perhaps unfairly) think: “This church is dying and they don’t know it.”  Their identity is about surviving, not being A Light to the World.

I’m not saying “let go and let God.”  Yuck. No.  (It’s true but we’ve turned it into a wall plaque.)  I’m saying that when we live out our calling in faith, God makes it abundantly clear when things need to change.

Our identity as The Church is not in our building, our programs, our ability to hire a pastor, or the number of people on our rolls.  Our identity is in Jesus Christ.

  • How are we making a life-giving impact in our community in the name of Jesus?
  • What positive things have we learned about God and ourselves as God’s people during this pandemic?
  • What’s keeping us from being the people God created us to be?

These are exciting times to be the Church.  I say this boldly and – to be honest – with trepidation considering that the world is a hot mess.  (And how can Chadwick Boseman be dead?)

But praying about the future of The Church is no joke.  It’s not a platitude to nail to the livingroom wall.  It’s serious business.  Every week as I serve Charlotte Presbytery – and I mean every week – I see God moving.  God is especially moving in shake-it-up kinds of ways:

The person who “is not yet ready” for leadership becomes the one called to step up now.  The impossible task of clearing the decks in terms of tired leadership is miraculously achieved. The funding needed for a desperately needed ministry is found.

God is doing amazing things during 2020.  The year is a monster, to be sure.  It’s been ugly and devastating and violent and often evil.  And yet, we are not afraid.  In fact, we expect resurrection.

Image is a quote from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Augustus’ parents were all about “encouragements.” (I like pillow sayings as much as anyone but true faith is not a platitude.)

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