Along with representatives from 15 of our churches, I spent the day with Jim Griffith a professional coach and church planter. We learned a lot about the issues facing our churches today.

But it was two pictures that really caught my attention.

The first showed a castle, surrounded by a moat, high impenetrable walls, drawbridge up – isolated, desolate. “This is what our churches look like to those who walk by but will not go in.” The next slide showed the same castle with the United Methodist cross and flame displayed on the wall. “We were then asked to think about that picture.”

The next slide showed an arrow pointing to one of windows up high in one of the towers of the same castle. Beside the arrow — Pastor’s Office.

What I heard Jim Griffith, the speaker say: “The Pastor and the church is supposed to be out in the community meeting people, representing our church. Yet we often put them in an office and tell them to wait for someone to visit us. People who are already in the castle may come – usually to complain. Others will not. To them the drawbridge is up, the moat is too deep and the walls are too high.”

“What if every pastor was told by their church to spend a minimum of eight hours a week networking within the community they serve. Suppose they were encouraged to actually meet and talk to people outside the church – get to know them and their families, hear their concerns, pray for their needs? What kind of impact would that have on the community, on the church? What if your pastor first set the example, then helped the church members do the same? What kind of church would that be?”

“Instead we as the church raise our drawbridge, build our walls ever higher and wait in our office for the people who will never come.”

Then the question: “What are we as the church going to do about it?”

The next picture that caught my attention showed someone on their hands and knees on a beach. You can see the body, the hands and the feet but you cannot see the head.

The head is buried, buried in the sand.

Could that picture possibly describe many of our churches? Maybe. Could it be representative of many of our leaders? Possibly. How about our pastors? You’re getting warmer. Could that picture possibly be portraying (gulp) me? Ouch!

Jim Griffith had my attention. And I realized that I too must take my head out of the sand and learn how to be a different kind of leader for our churches.

The next morning, I looked for a Scripture passage that would help me connect with what I learned.

Jesus was asked: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Mat. 22:36-40)

• Love the Lord with all your heart –

• Love your neighbor as yourself –

Everything about the church and the God we serve is based on those two commandments.

There is no castle, no moat, no high walls… Love the Lord with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no one buried in the sand… Love the Lord with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.

I want to love the Lord with all my heart and all my soul and mind. For me, the church is the best place to do that.

I want to love my neighbor as myself. For me, the church is where I learn to be a better neighbor.

I left the workshop yesterday determined to do better at being the church. I don’t want to reside in a castle. I want to be a part of God’s church. I don’t want to have my head in the sand. I want to serve my neighbor.

Now, that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of.

As you think about God today and consider going to church. May you not be confronted with a castle but a group of people, saved by the grace of God who are eager to welcome you.

As you think about God today and consider going to church. May you not see a group of people with their heads in the sand but instead be enthusiastically greeted by people looking to improve their relationship with God and learn how to be a better neighbor within their community.



Don Garrett · November 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Hey Larry…at home this morning nursing a bad back and your message was right on time…I am hoping to get with you sometime before the end of the year and get your guidance and feedback on how I can be more missional in the community and beyond and bring Amelia churches together to do the same…look forward to a time when we can get together…have a great week…Don Garrett

Chris Icenhour · November 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Larry, Great quick analogy of where we find ourselves. I know where the event was held, and because of the architecture, it seems like a castle to outsiders.

It is up to us, the people, to show why we are different than the world, that we DO love our neighbors, that we do more than love God and go home. Community where not a single person can fall through the cracks of our love as we are His hands, His feet.

Just one person, one conversation, one cup of coffee at a time will start…

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