Words of Hope From Pastor Shane
Not a “Plug-and-Play” Church
This past week I had a conversation with a young adult who lives outside our area. As we were talking the subject of the church came up, and as we talked the individual made a statement that struck me hard. The statement was: “I only want to attend a church where everything is already in place; to where all I have to do is plug and play.” This person went on to tell me this was the reason he/she would only attend a large church. This statement struck me not in a positive way. I have thought about this statement for several days, and, it isn’t he fact the individual only wants to attend a large church that bothers me; what bothers me about this statement is the person doesn’t understand what the church is, how it is to function or how it came into being.
Interestingly enough one of my readings was Acts 8. I invite you to read the first eight verses:
1 And Saul approved of his murder. That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries. 3 But Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail. 4 The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message. 5 Philip went to the principal city in Samaria and preached the Messiah to the people there. 6 The crowds paid close attention to what Philip said, as they listened to him and saw the miracles that he performed. 7 Evil spirits came out from many people with a loud cry, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
This text comes on the heels of Stephen having just been stoned to death for his proclaiming of Jesus as the Messiah. In addition to Stephen being murdered, all the believers in Jerusalem were arrested, beaten and scattered throughout the region. There were many families that were separated and all faith communities who professed Jesus as the Messiah were broken up. However, it is interesting what happened as the people were dispersed; they continued to proclaim the gospel in the midst of their discomfort. The result is the gospel was spread to areas that otherwise might have had the opportunity to hear it. This is how the church began. This is how the church experienced its growth.
As I have thought about this, I have thought about us today. The church was never designed to be a “plug-and-play” entertainment factory. The church has always been a place that has been about growth – Spiritual growth; however, most growth takes place during struggle. One of the reasons the church has grown during struggle is because we are a safe place of hope. That hope comes from people who have applied the gospel to their lives and bore the fruit of their faith as they have allowed the teachings of Christ to be manifested through them. The church isn’t a place of entertainment where the children are cared for in one place so the adults can gather in a different room to be entertained by music or motivational messages. Church is to be a place where we engage, struggle and triumph in faith because we are in relationship with individuals who are in different places of the faith journey. Some may be struggling, some may simply just plodding through, and others may be experiencing great joy and victory. Each of these stages of the faith journey are vital for individual and communal growth. Without the struggle there is no joy in the completion of the particular journey.
During this pandemic I believe God is still being revealed. I believe God is giving us new ideas and ways of proclaiming the gospel, as well as, ways to be the church, which is still being revealed. However, I want to take this time to say thank you. Each of you have continued to support the church. You continue to be the church during these uncertain times as you have stayed engaged with your community. I am thankful that you choose not to be a “plug-and-play” church; but for 148 years Oakley Chapel has continued to look for new and different ways to stay engaged with the community as you seek to be witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am blessed to be your pastor, but, more importantly; I am blessed to be a fellow Christian who gets to struggle, grow and find victory alongside you. May we continue to be the church that God has allowed us to be for the past 148 years. I love you all.
Grace and Peace,