Monday, November 15, 2004

So long and thanks for all the fish 

Yesterday in Bible class we had one of those comments that just strikes you as being wrong, but you need to figure out exactly why it strikes you that way. The comment was "If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone in the neighborhood miss you?" Just about everyone in the class sadly nodded their heads, noting that, indeed, Dry Bones Lutheran Church could up and vanish with nary a ripple in the lives of our neighbors. The implication, of course, is that we need to "do something" to make a more positive impact on our community. Like I said, the whole concept struck me as flawed somehow. But after raising the question whether that was a bad thing and pointing out that we should be promoting Jesus rather than our congregation, my brain froze and I had no further explanation. (And that's why I'm inflicting this manifesto on you, rather than the more appropriate audience.)

Thinking about it, I guess I accept our congregation as it is--small and somewhat removed from the community. As an organization, we aren't a major player in the neighborhood. We don't run a school, or a food bank, or rally scores of volunteers. All our contributions in such areas are made to programs run by others. Even in our core purpose--to tell and teach others about God--we're only one of a number of Christian churches in the area. If we vanished, all the work would still continue, albeit the handful of individuals to whom we do minister would be affected. I have to question if that is a state of affairs that needs to be changed. The Bible really doesn't offer any self-evaluation tools to judge one's performance, but there is the parable (prophecy?) in Matthew 25, where Jesus judges humanity. The judgment spoken is on the basis of how individuals relate to other individuals. "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat" not "and you established a feeding program, daily providing hundreds of nutritious meals to the hungry." So as long as the "hungry" get "something to eat" (to use that as a metaphor), I don't think it should matter if the church gets noticed or not. In fact, perhaps it's better that we don't get the credit. After all, Jesus says that when you receive earthly honors, you have received your reward. (Matt 6:2-4)

Of course, I should be cognizant of the log in my own eye. (Matt 7:5) I could have kept all these words to myself, rather than posting them on the web, and I certainly would be delighted to get favorbale comments about them. No one is perfect, not even me. ;-)