Signs of life…..

Today we had about 50 families with tables in the church parking lot selling “treasures” and all sorts of crafts. It was part of our church’s effort to help families address concerns over the economic downturn.

Early this morning, as I arrived to make the coffee, turn on the lights, and begin setting up tables, I walked through the quiet hallways and observed several things:
– a large cart of canned goods and stacks of blankets beside it for the Rescue Mission
– a tree of envelopes waiting to be selected and filled with contributions for a local children’s
-a large cart overflowing with children’s toys for a toy swap to help families with the cost
of Christmas gifts
– sign up sheets for a variety of classes and fellowship activities

I was also aware of trays of food leftover from last night’s dinner event awaiting delivery to the homeless people staying at the Rescue Mission and packages of venison and other food in the freezer for families struggling to make food budgets stretch farther.

Tears came to my eyes as they looked on the signs of a church doing meaningful ministry, seeking to be the hands, feet, and heart of Christ in a world where there is so much need.

Are we doing enough? Is any amount ever enough?
Can we do more? We are doing more than we ever have before and yes, I believe we can do more. But not without more leadership among the rank and file laity.

How do we attract and train committed disciples into leadership so that we can forge new ministries, continue those we have, and expand those that are in their infancy, without relying so heavily on overworked paid staff? I have been part of the leadership with adult ministries for over five years and I feel very inadequate these days. My style of leadership does not inspire. It plods. It sets out to accomplish tasks and simply trusts that others will find the tasks valuable enough to join the effort- and is often disheartened to find that so few do. It gets the job done that it is assigned, but it fails in so many ways to bring new people into the process and to rally current people to greater effort. Some have a Midas touch in ministry. I don’t. My thumb is as anemic in growing disciples as it is in growing houseplants. When my mother-in-law was alive, our house was lush with green growing plants of all types and sizes. At her death I counted over 40 in our house that she had nurtured year in and year out. Within a year most had succumbed to my neglect and lack of knowledge in how to care for them. Today the best I can do is to keep one or two hardy pots of pathos at a time alive.

My ability to nurture disciples and inspire others to ministry is similar…..a small few at a time and in rather straight forward and uncomplicated ways. They either rapidly outgrow what I have to offer and take off on their own…..or opt out altogether for lack of inspiration.

There was a time when I seemed to flourish in leadership roles in various community organizations. That’s been many years ago now, a different place and time. More and more I’ve observed, in the here and now, that the harder I try, the less effective I become, especially in the church.

This isn’t a self pitying whine, but rather an honest self assessment. In some respects, however, my ineffectiveness may even be a blessing. Out of my own inadequacy, God has required that I look to others for leadership, keeping me regularly humbled by my inability to make much happen in my own strength, wit, or creativity. At some point, though, passion and desire have to step aside in deference to those with real leadership skill and better rapport.

So, I wait for those who will come…. and they will. There is too much evidence of evolving ministry in our midst for God to fail to complete the good work He’s begun. There will be new lay leadership that will lift us to a new level, who will bring new energy and vision to the tasks before us. I praise God for what He will do in the future, as I thank Him for these present signs of life.