A short while ago, I researched why churches die. It was not anything overly intellectual. I simply googled, “signs of a dying church.” There are dozens of blogs and articles ranging from the knowledgeable to the questionable. Most list five to ten reasons; one lists 113 of which I read maybe 50.
The reasons entailed mismanagement of funds and various things of that nature, but the essence of each reason spoke to a preoccupation with self and a failure to love others. On the surface, and in theory, this conclusion seems rather “duh,” but in practice? It can be a little less “duh” and a little more “ouch” because we must admit we have allowed our selfish default setting to run our lives rather than be intentional about how we live and how we interact with the world around us.
Our agendas and our comfort can be so consuming that the depth of the absorption is unrealized. Our vacations, our schedules, our families, our desires are not built around our relationship with God or being His presence in the world. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit to shoving God into the miniscule fissures between what WE did, what WE are doing and what WE are going to do. What God did, what God is doing and what God is going to do is given little thought and, if it is given more than that, it is still within the framework of self. Such mindless self-absorption inhibits the power of God in our lives. We become useless to the church and the people around us. I have not escaped this tendency, and neither have you, but we are called to live otherwise.
Yet, even when we strive to live otherwise, our faithfulness to service and love is so easily undermined by what we view as a lack of response. The results are undesirable and it more resembles a dead end or a circle rather than a journey toward something beneficial. Our call to faithfulness, while it does not appear to be doing anything, is a paradox. By our reasoning, it does not make sense. It is not up to us to determine whether or not our faithfulness is doing something based on the results. God has called us to be faithful. Not calculate the results.
Jesus demonstrated absolute faithfulness. He gave knowing the equivalent of His gift would not be reciprocated. As Christians, it is our mission to give, to love, in the same manner—without expectations, without limitations. It is Christ in us making this kind of love possible. Without a nurtured relationship with God, we are just a group of people doling out human kindness, not God-love. Human kindness acts within the context of our comfort and enables us to risk very little. It does not withstand extreme circumstance. God-love is risky and uncomfortable but prevails in every circumstance. It has nothing to do with who we are. It has everything to do with God in us.
The beautiful part about the whole question of health, unhealthy, dying and death is God is still working in and through His people—no matter how unhealthy or how broken. He is working right now. This very second. In your life. In mine. He is making something new from the old, something whole from the broken—something selfless out of the self-absorbed. Be encouraged. Just because the results are not immediate, or do not look like what we thought they would, does not mean God is downing Mai Tais on a beach somewhere, impervious to our cries for mercy. Be faithful. God is working.