Virtually everything, over time, tends to run down. Trees sprout, grow, produce fruit, then begin to decay. Projects, begun with enthusiasm, can move to passion, but if not stoked, can gradually lose their fascination. Even a dramatic news story runs a predictable “news cycle.” No matter how scintillating, after a couple of days it moves to the back page, then slips out of sight altogether. There’s even a name for the process, though we don’t use it often – entropy. Everything runs down.
Vision leaks, too. In church. First love, Scripture calls it. That new member comes bounding up the church steps on Sabbath morning, radiating energy. “Don’t worry,” we observe, “he (or she) will get over it.” And it’s generally true.
But is it inevitable? Is there another alternative? Is there a cure? Can strong leadership help Laodicea-proof a church? Let’s talk about that.
Question: How many non-believing friends do you have? Jesus hung out with the very people we often try to avoid. Sociologists call it the principle of the homogeneous unit…we tend to feel the most comfortable with the people who are most like us.
During the Christmas season a couple of years back we invited a group of friends to our house to fill shoe boxes with toys for the Samaritan’s Purse project. Fifteen or more showed up, about half from our church and half from our neighborhood.
As we began filling the shoe boxes, we noticed an interesting phenomenon; the church members were working on one project, the non-members on another. With a wonderful opportunity to expand our friendship circle to include folks we might be able to bless, instead, we clumped. Ugh.
I heard about a Shepherd once who slipped away from a group of sheep He knew and went to look for one that had wandered off. Hmm. Maybe I need to pray for a Shepherd’s heart. Maybe I need to make sure my church is committed to an aggressive mission strategy, then celebrate the victories God gives, the wins. That’s one of the ways a church learns what’s important. Would it help keep us on task if we had a couple of new believers on the church board? You know, to kind of jog us about our priorities as a church?
And that new, high-energy member… why not interview him/her so some of that fresh joy can rub off on the rest of us. Passionate, mission-committed leaders in a church can help make sure the vision doesn’t leak. We often announce at our fellowship dinners that if you don’t sit at a table with someone you don’t know, there’s no dessert for you. They laugh, but it makes the point.
By Don Jacobsen