This week… After earnest prayer and careful consideration, thousands of churches across Virginia and throughout the United States made commitments and set goals toward becoming Vital Congregations. These commitments were made to seek improvement in five critical areas.
Vital Congregations are committed to inviting and inspiring worship.
Vital Congregations are continually helping to raise new disciples.
Vital Congregations are regularly engaged in growing their faith.
Vital Congregations are involved in mission work at home and abroad.
Vital Congregations share sacrificially in their giving toward helping others.
After all, it’s one thing to make commitments and set goals. It’s quite another to succeed.
Do you want an example? Every New Year’s Day, many of us make resolutions. “I’m going to lose twenty pounds.” We buy an exercise machine. We start a new diet. But before long, the exercise machine becomes a clothes hanger and the diet is forgotten.
We’re sincere in making our commitments but real change is difficult and often painful.
- It’s one thing to commit our church to becoming more inviting and inspiring in our worship? But what do we change? Our music? Our preaching?
- It’s one thing to commit to raising new disciples but to do that, we all have to learn how to share our faith more deeply to our friends, neighbors, coworkers, even strangers.
- It’s one thing to commit to spiritual growth but to do that means we must sign up for a Bible study or Sunday school class or we find time to spend an extra half hour in prayer.
- It’s one thing to commit to being involved in mission work but that means giving up one of our Saturdays each month to repair a disabled persons home.
- It’s one thing to commit to sharing sacrificially but that means finding a way to cut back our spending on ourselves in order to give more to something else.
It’s one thing to make a commitment. It’s quite another to be willing and able to change.
I’ll say it again. Now what?
Shortly after David became King, he likely wrote what we know as Psalm 61:
God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer.
When I’m far from anywhere, down to my last gasp,
I call out, “Guide me up High Rock Mountain!”
You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all,
a lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously,
God, made me welcome among those who know and love you.
Let the days of the king add up to years and years of good rule.
Set his throne in the full light of God;
post Steady Love and Good Faith as lookouts,
And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory—
and live what I sing every day.
David provides the formula for following through on our commitments.
“Listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer…” is about our need to involve God in our decisions. In order to accomplish our goals as Vital Congregations, we need to spend earnest time in prayer and seek to involve God in all of our decisions.
“You’ve always given me breathing room…” is about the space God gives to experiment with new choices, confident that God will not abandon us. We are always welcome.
“Let the days of the king add up to years…” is about how long this process will take. We are embarking on a marathon, not a sprint. Meanwhile, we maintain steady love and good faith.
“And I’ll be the poet who sings your glory –“ is about the reward for all the hard work and sacrifice involved with change. The reward? We will live what we sing, every day.”
- Listen to me shout is about prayer.
- Give me breathing room is about safety in the midst of change.
- Let the days add up to years is about knowing the length of our journey.
- Live what I sing is about the reward for all the sacrifices and hard work of change.
We pray. We accept the breathing room God will give us as we struggle with difficult decisions. We let the days become years totally committed to God’s guidance in the midst of change. We eagerly anticipate the reward of change: “Learning to live what we sing.”
Abbie Waters in “Words Matter” wrote a beautiful prayer about struggling with change:
Fill me with your Holy Spirit, O God. Remind me that I do not know your ways or your purposes.
I look around me and see the world – my country – my community – my church – my family struggling with poverty and illness and brokenness and sadness and death. Remind me that I do not know your ways or your purposes.
I look again and see the small kindnesses of strangers and friends, mitigating the difficulties that consumed me at first. Remind me that I do not know your ways or your purposes.
Help me to see and appreciate the problems as opportunities to bask in your loving solutions. Remind me that I do not know your ways or your purposes.
Help me to be a solution rather than a problem.
Allow me to be your hands and feet in this lovely, broken, needy world. And in the end, bring me to your side so I may finally understand.