Unanimous votes hardly ever happen in a Baptist church. I have had people tell me that they voted “no” just to make sure that the ballot count was authentic and that every vote mattered. That’s part of it I suppose. That’s what made last Wednesday night so unique, in that our church had two 100% votes which related to the launch of a five year Preparing for the Future capital campaign, and the continued relationship with the Chin Community Church. UHBC is sharing its chapel space with this congregation.
Showing hospitality in this way is not without its complications, especially when there are cultural and language barriers to navigate. But, it is a wonderful gesture of Kingdom business to open doors to those who can utilize space for worship, fellowship, and spiritual formation. Sometimes churches can become territorial with their space. That temptation and danger exists among our people too, which is why we must continue to pray and be reminded of our purpose on a regular basis.
I have to admit, I am not a fan of church work. I am not the only pastor who feels that way. Many pastors get into this line of work in order to care for souls rather than run a church. I know that’s why I did. It’s difficult to explain that distinction to the people at times, but it is important to note the difference. Kingdom business is not always church business. That is a sad but realistic commentary on life in many American congregations.
It drains my soul to count the “nickels and noses” on Mondays. But, every now and then, something happens to renew my spirit and encourage me as pastor. That happened about a week ago when I got to baptize Savannah. Baptisms are among my favorite things to do, and I suppose the reason for that is it’s consistent with life in the Kingdom of God. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having people “transfer their membership” too. But, there’s nothing like being part of a new believer’s baptism experience. I cherish those moments, and refer to them often to keep me encouraged.
I read recently about a prominent pastor who resigned because of ongoing issues with declining church membership and revenues. This was particularly painful because of the public nature of the situation. But, this isn’t the first time something like this happens in a local church. It won’t be the last, either. These difficulties play out each and every week on a much less noticeable basis all across our country. Sadly, it’s not an unusual development or problem. Pastors are under a great deal of stress and are dealing with factors that are often not of their doing. We can get blamed for things that aren’t our fault, and occasionally get credit for things that we had little to do with as well. It’s frustrating for the pastors and their congregations.
When this starts to happen, then the shift away from Kingdom business is not far away. The “business” of church takes over. It can be a subtle sensation that comes in the form of thinking of what to do to “keep the doors open” rather than how to “get out of the doors” into the community. That pressure is real and surfaces in business meetings and parking lot conversations. However, I have read through the New Testament and have not been able to locate a passage of Scripture which indicates that self-preservation should be the priority of the body of Christ. There’s also nothing to indicate that a particular local church is supposed to exist forever. Local churches have their functions and if they true to their mission, then the Lord can be trusted to take care of the rest. That’s an interesting and sobering perspective: not every church is supposed to remain viable forever. I won’t say that a church can’t “exist” indefinitely, because some do as long as the money or endowment is there. But, existing as a church is not the same thing as engaging its community with the gospel.
Kingdom business is risky. Despite all the challenges that come with ministry in America, our “first world” problems are not worthy to be compared to the real dangers that churches in other countries face on a regular basis. Martyrdom is a real possibility for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we ought to remember that the next time we’re prone to complain about how many people showed up for an hour on Sunday morning. This numerical basis isn’t always the best way to measure effectiveness in the Kingdom. When Jesus was delivering the Sermon on the Mount, he didn’t say “Look at what a big crowd we have today!”
It’s a privilege to be part of the Kingdom. It isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding. It’s vital to stay focused and allow Jesus’ admonition to “seek first the Kingdom of God” to take hold of our hearts and minds. Church work can be tiring and discouraging. Ask any pastor, though, and s/he will tell you that baptizing new converts never gets old. It is the one thing that can make all the ‘church business” more bearable. That’s because it’s the one thing for sure that is Kingdom business. And, Kingdom business is more fun that church business any day.