Nothing but Bragging
As far as I know my elders never read this blog. In fact, I am not sure that more than one or two of them even knows it exists. I'm not ashamed of it; it's just that I'm still a bit stunned that anyone wants to read the gravel washed eroded bits of brain cells that makes up this column. With that said, as a follow up to my last blog, let me brag on my elders.
These eleven men of God have traveled farther down a hard road than any group I have ever worked with before. When they saw that holding on to our traditions as if they were "thus saith the Lord" and keeping the church locked down in the building would not be effective in changing the world, they said, "enough."
It is the eldership here that said we will put no more money into the ground. We built our building and remodeled it as fast as we could, but we are still having three morning services to get the folk in (and to serve different groups). Some have said we need to sell this building and build bigger, like those other megachurches in town. Our elders said no. They are willing to put money into off-site churches in coffee bars or empty storefronts, happy to pour money into mission works in Michigan, Canada, and six or seven countries overseas, and thrilled to maintain a massive warehouse of clothes and food that serves between 30-90 families a week (good stuff, not hominy and hand-me-downs). But no more money for church buildings. Why?
They want the church to escape the building. They want us to go out and bring in the lost. They want us to find those who are different from us, care for them, love them, and, should they wish to worship with us, welcome them. So... what was an upper-income white church is rapidly becoming something else. A large percentage of our congregation has no background in the restoration movement and some worship services have 30-35% minority representation now. The poor, the punks, and the pierced sit beside old ladies with blue rinsed hair, people who came down the hall from their AA or NA meetings and found a worship going on, black, white, asian, and an amazing assortment of financial situations and emotional histories.
Small groups meet all over the county and beyond. Our own people are giving up their jobs to go into the mission field in numbers that, frankly, stuns me -- especially when I know that no one asked them to do this. It seems that once the church leaves the confines of the building -- using it as a gathering place and resource only and not the focus of church life -- things start happening that harken back to "daily and from house to house."
Our elders spend more of their time in prayer than in discussing budgets, staff, and next to no time at all mentioning the building and grounds. Men and women step up and serve, knowing that the elders are right there to love and support them. Staff are not afraid of criticism for when someone carps that "this isn't the way the church of Christ used to do things" the elders are there, standing up for them and making sure the people know that they are loved but they will not be allowed to drag the church backwards into the building.
They aren't going to read this, but know this: I pray for our elders every day and thank God I am allowed to serve with them. Agree with them all the time? Are you kidding? I don't agree with anybody all the time, including myself or She Who Must Be Obeyed. However, it is only speaking the truth to say that they have often been right when I doubted them. We may butt heads from time to time but we will never let go of each other or Jesus.
The most amazing thing about Christianity: when you really try it, it works. Amazing.