Don’t let anyone convince you that history has no bearing on the future.
While doing some research for my congregation’s anniversary service, I found out that there was once a Presbyterian church in a nearby hamlet. It had to have been torn down because there’s no sign of it today. What amazed me was that it was only one concession east of another Presbyterian congregation. Two churches founded by Scottish Presbyterian families a mere 2.8 km apart? I understand that there was a need for churches in every township and village in those days, but this was a bit much.
A little more research and I found the reason. It was the result of a church split; settlers to the north disagreed on where to plant a new church, so they ended up with two within spitting distance. It’s inconceivable in today’s world, but both survived and thrived because each had a different culture and attracted enough people to make a go of it.
It got me wondering about the vastly different world in which these churches were built. In the 1800s, churches sprang up along with post offices, railway stations, general stores, and grist mills. They were necessary elements in an emerging nation, providing a social outlet in an era where all human interaction was face to face or by mail. Those churches were glimpses into the world of learning; the preacher was among the few educated persons these people encountered. They were providers of aid before there was social assistance, unemployment insurance, and food banks.
Churches are no longer social outlets (although they can be) and sources of imagination (although we know they can be innovative) or sources of aid (although they do fill the gap). What churches did then and what we continue to do today is to be a source of hope and a witness to the Creator.
Despite those exclusive rights to the Great Commission, we are failing. We are intimidated by the sheer power of false religion and empty philosophies. We cower in the shadow of political correctness and do not stand up. We retreat into our worship and sanctuaries and are inwardly focused.
The Apostle Peter reminds us of our marching orders: “… for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NLT)
That is our call to arms, our rallying cry, our bold declaration. And yet we don’t answer it.
Hebrews 3:6b tells us, “We are his house if we keep up our courage and our confidence in what we hope for.” (GNT)
We haven’t kept up our house.
I love William Barclay’s take on this: “Each one of us is like a stone in the church. If one stone is weak, the whole edifice is endangered. The church stands firm only when each living stone in it is rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ.”
Too many churches are filled with weak stones, unable to hold up. They are weak because they are not rooted and grounded in authentic biblical thinking and do not engage in powerful Spirit-led prayer. That’s our own rallying cry as the renewal movement in The Presbyterian church In Canada. We are calling on everyone to go deeper in our faith and rediscover what it means to be a loving community, united by the Spirit of Christ, empowered and equipped for effective Gospel witness in order to become true living stones.
Only then will we have something to offer to the world. When we are united in love for each other and the world, then people will notice. And they will be attracted. And they will ask, “Where do they get this love? Where do they find such hope? Where do they develop such strength?” And we will point them to Christ.
Our job is not to do good deeds, for these are empty and are no different than what do-gooders do. No, get right with God. And I mean go deep.
In my last blog, I witnessed the usefulness of VBS to draw young families so that we may show them the love of Christ. My ongoing prayer in my own congregation is that we will show unchurched people something that they don’t see in their schools, hockey teams, figure skating, gymnastics lessons, or anywhere else children gather. Yes, we might have the same devotion as the good coaches and teachers out there, but we do it as royal priests, as a holy nation, so that we can show them the goodness of God. And renewal will follow.
The hope of the world is also the hope for the church.