It was the thirteenth time I preached the “May Meeting” at this lovely church. I’ve watched as their membership shrinks each year. I want to be of help to them, but I live nearly 500 miles away. It is unlikely my preaching there three or four times a year will bring much change.
My first time to attend this church was in 1953 for the funeral of Uncle John, my dad’s oldest brother. Except for some ceiling fans and a couple of restrooms, the building is exactly as I remember it 65 years ago. At my uncle’s funeral, the building was packed — not so today.
I commend the faithful few who are keeping the doors open. The church was begun by members of my family in 1858; and I want it to live and be a blessing to God’s Kingdom here on earth and eternally. I am praying for some “Aha” word from the Lord to meet their needs.
This church is not an exception. There are hundreds like it “out there.” Many factors affect this dynamic — people move away and the church fails to replace them; some churches are in remote places making attendance difficult; often the leadership insists on “doing things like we always did” and new people won’t buy into it; larger churches are often more appealing to young people. I could go on; but suffice it to say, I am prayerfully seeking answers to a disturbing trend.
While I am concerned, I am not without hope. The Church is built on faith and through faith (Romans 1:16-17).
By faith, Moses accepted God’s assignment to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery, despite the fact he was a wanted man in Egypt. He surely was discouraged when time after time he thought freedom was in their grasp only to have Pharaoh close the door. He had great faith when he led thousands into the desert with nothing to protect or sustain them but the Spirit of God. His faith was surely challenged when they faced the Red Sea. When God parted the waters, Moses and all the Hebrews must have said, “Aha.”
Our day, our time, is much like that. For more than 2,000 years, the faithful have been telling people about Jesus. There have been countless challenges that frighten and disappoint us. But we follow him in faith, believing that in God’s good time, we will have cause to say “Aha.”
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”