Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Leave a Hole

Warning: I can be a very blunt individual. It may indicate a lack of kindness, but I hope that isn't the case. I prefer to think of it as one individual defined diplomacy: "warfare by other means." This column about children, church, and Christians might seem harsh... but I'm writing it anyway!

A couple was furious with our church. We had gone to see what happened to them after someone noticed they'd been gone from our worship assembly for some time. "We aren't coming back," the husband said. "That is an unloving, cold church that claims to care about people but doesn't." I asked him on what basis he made that judgment and he replied, "We were gone four weeks from that church before anyone there even noticed. What kind of church doesn't even notice something like that?"

I replied, "What kind of person are you, that you could be gone for four weeks and the no one in the church could tell?" They were shocked by this 'attack' so I pressed on. "What work suffered because you stopped your ministry? What mission work ground to a halt because you withdrew your funding, prayers and support? Could it be -- just imagine with me a moment -- could it be that you never really were a part of the church? Could that be why your departure was unnoticed?"

I tell people -- and mean it -- that the Rochester Church is the warmest, friendliest, and most talented congregation I have ever worked with... but we don't make it easy to be a member here. All who come to be a part of us are called into the ministry and work of this body. They are expected to give and live as disciples, to be deeply involved in our work, and to be available to any other member who needs prayer or backup.

Kami and I built this into our children at an early age. As I have written before, we would often end the day with two questions: "Where did you see Jesus today?" and "What did you do for Jesus today?"

Let me rephrase this: make your life necessary. When you die, as we all will, you can either fill a hole or leave it. Your choice. I have no interest in filling a hole. I have a great interest in leaving one. Make you life something that gives, serves, and leads in such a way that when you are gone, it matters!!! I ask my staff and my children -- but mostly I ask myself -- "what difference did it make that you lived today? In what way did you do something that would have remained undone without you? Did your life matter today?"

Did you pray for someone fervently? Did you sacrifice some money or pleasure for another's benefit? Did you offer kindness and courtesy to someone everybody else ignored? Did you look for those who have been robbed and beaten by life and offer to them everything you had to help them as did the Samaritan?

People ask me how we raised our daughter to be such a sweet, dedicated, serving Christian and how we raised our son to be a noble, honorable, courageous man who is headed towards the officer's ranks in the Marine Corps. We challenged them to make each day an opportunity to make their life count. My son has written extensively on why he is going to serve in the uniform of the Corps. I will not quote that extensively here, but the gist of it is that everyone lives, but not everyone matters. Everyone dies, but most never lived for something bigger than themselves first.

And everybody fills a hole at death, but not everybody leaves one.

28 Comments:

At 5/17/2006 01:01:00 PM , Blogger Jim Martin said...

Patrick,
I came across your blog not long ago. This is a great post--in particular your handling of the conversation with that couple. This is a definite (and healthy) departure from seeing these people as consumers who must be pleased or something is wrong.

 
At 5/17/2006 02:02:00 PM , Blogger Mark said...

So... did the family come back to church? :-)

 
At 5/17/2006 03:38:00 PM , Blogger Jim MacKenzie said...

Patrick,

I forwarded a link this post to all of my elders because we had this very discussion about disgruntled church folk just last night! Yes it is blunt, but needed.

Thanks!

 
At 5/17/2006 04:50:00 PM , Blogger Zoe's Mom said...

Fantastic post.

Jennifer

 
At 5/17/2006 05:03:00 PM , Anonymous Bob Belden said...

Patrick -- I'm one of the elders Jim MacKenzie sent this to. Amen!

 
At 5/17/2006 10:36:00 PM , Blogger Bill said...

Thanks for the good thoughts. Patrick. I'm following Jim's lead and sending this along to my shepherds. -bw

 
At 5/18/2006 07:27:00 AM , Anonymous Dan Gill said...

Patrick, I'd love to see Duncan's writings on why he is becoming a Marine. Perhaps on his own blog?

Thanks for this and for all your "family" writings. You are helping parents with this (and kids).

 
At 5/18/2006 10:29:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Mark, this particular family did not come back, but more than half do -- AND they become involved in ministries. Those who were not challenged almost uniformly did not return or returned only to sit on the premises rather than stand on the promises. Along with the challenge I offer a chance to re-envision their walk with Jesus in a way that makes a hole. Most accept it.

 
At 5/18/2006 11:37:00 AM , Blogger salguod said...

Good thoughts Patrick. Perhaps this is also part of your process, but couldn't the question be reversed to the church? In other words, who's personal ministry is it to watch out for those on the fringe and draw them in and why did it take them 4 weeks to notice that this family was gone?

I think both questions are valid.

 
At 5/18/2006 11:41:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

sometimes the truth can only be said bluntly, and if it hurts or comes across as rude.....usually that is just our pride that got hurt anyways.

 
At 5/18/2006 12:41:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Great post, PM. Another chapter in your to-be released book! :) I will make SURE all my Shepherds read this.

God bless,
DU

 
At 5/18/2006 01:30:00 PM , Anonymous Tim said...

That was a great post! Our usual approach is to kiss their backsides in hopes that they will return, in which case they sit and wait for the next opportunity to get mad about something.

Speaking the truth in love; what a novel approach.

But more importantly, your thoughts inspired ME to do an evaluation of my life. (I hate it when that happens.

 
At 5/18/2006 02:37:00 PM , Anonymous Pat Bliss said...

Ouch! And thanks for the courageous example. Blunt? Yes, But so right.

 
At 5/18/2006 03:05:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

"Sit on the premises rather than stand on the promises" hahaha I love it! Can I use that? :)

I too was wondering about the possibility in reading more of Duncan's thoughts on his future. I applaud his courageous and noble calling and following in his father's footsteps - to go where he is lead! Amen brother!

 
At 5/18/2006 05:55:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

Those are 2 questions that I will put on my wall and ask myself each day. Hopefully, I can get better with my answers.

 
At 5/18/2006 08:05:00 PM , Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

Well I never read why this family was absent from church in the first place. were they sick had someone died were they in need of help from those who they thought were brothers in Christ, and I stress thought. You might be a little ticked to if you joined the brotherhood of love and no one gave a damn whether you were dead or not. not even enough to pick up the phone and call I believe the responsability falls mainly on the shepard to care for the sheep I am pretty sure those people didn't leave church for a month just to test your love for them, but if they did looks like they were right to do so.

 
At 5/18/2006 08:41:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

L.E., a little credit, please. Had that been the reason, I wouldn't have challenged them and called them to change their lives.

 
At 5/18/2006 09:15:00 PM , Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

Just letting you know that the blunt way is not always the way to go when addressing our brothers who have strayed. I hope you forgive me for pretending to judge you in such a blunt way, give your needy brothers honey, they offered vinegar to or lord when he was in need of pure water. May God Bless

 
At 5/18/2006 09:38:00 PM , Blogger InnerUrban said...

Great Post Patrick, but I ask the reverse question what can the church do with someone who has taken their hands off the plow

Luke 9:62 KJV
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God

http://letters.innerurban.com/

 
At 5/18/2006 10:26:00 PM , Blogger carrie said...

Thanks for the food for thought!! Imagine the number of people christians could reach if we all kept those questions imprinted on our hearts!

 
At 5/19/2006 10:29:00 AM , Blogger Darth Monkey Tart said...

I've been reading your blog for a few months now but I have yet to leave a comment. I saw you speak at Jump Start in Neosho, Missouri last August and I believe I'll be seeing you speak this June at Genesis in Edmond, Oklahoma. I enjoyed hearing you speak and I love reading your blog. I am blessed by reading the things you have to say. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate things that you share on this page. Thanks for your time and effort. Praise God!

 
At 5/19/2006 06:38:00 PM , Blogger JD said...

It's a great post, Patrick. As has been pointed out, wisdom will be used as to how to approach individuals. There is no "one size fits all" way to deal with most church situations. But for the faithless pewsters who simply want to be pampered, here is a beautiful way to put them on notice that the Kingdom is not a place for spectators.

 
At 5/23/2006 07:48:00 AM , Anonymous Mary Erskine said...

I was raised in a home where from early on I was told that when you wake up each day think of something that you can do for some one. I do feel that when you are doing for others your life has so much more meaning.

Thank you for your honesty. I think that we all need to hear that we should be involved in the Lord's work daily.

 
At 5/23/2006 10:54:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

we would often end the day with two questions: "Where did you see Jesus today?" and "What did you do for Jesus today?"



I plan on adding this to my 6-year-old daughter's bedtime routine. Beginning tonight!

 
At 5/23/2006 11:54:00 AM , Blogger julie said...

Sometimes a harsh truth is the most loving thing we can offer.

 
At 5/24/2006 07:32:00 AM , Blogger james said...

wow, great analogy and application.

 
At 5/24/2006 01:07:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend forwarded your blog link and message to me about "leave a hole." Your approach while blunt is also honest - which is what we should most appreciate about those who are our brothers & sisters.

I understand what you are saying about leaving a hole, but I'm curious if you don't think we should also leave behind the materials to fill it. Here's an example of what I mean. Four years ago I was asked to direct, coordinate, oversee vacation Bible school. Call it what you want - it was dumped on me. So, I organized, directed, coordinated - but the day VBS started I was sick and unable to be there. What happened??? VBS went on without a hitch because everyone knew what they were supposed to do and did it. Does that mean that I didn't leave a hole? No, it means that others were well prepared to pick up and go on. Could it have happened without me? YES, but the lesson that others since then have picked up on is that if you effectively train others what they miss is your leadership, not the "doing" which they know you are willing to be part of also.

I also forwarded your comments to our shepherds (including my husband) and am curious to see how they answer.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

 
At 5/27/2006 10:53:00 AM , Blogger OdieontheRoad said...

Patrick,

A good post. I loved your comment about diplomacy being another means of warfare.

Here is my concern - not all involvement in the church fits into traditional categories. I understand your comment - but I think there are a hundred dimensions of being apart of the church and the needs of the church that aren't captured by leading small groups, mowing lawns, or sitting in on church meetings.

I have played both sides and felt both ways - so I'm not trying to say that your tact was wrong or right. Depending on the family, it may have been spot on. But I hope you know that not all fall into limited categories.

Christopher

 

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