A note from Pastor Evan, June 2019
My dear friends—
“So Dr., can you help me?”
Picture it with me. You are sitting in the waiting room. It’s been months now, and this cough just won’t shake. In fact, it’s driving you crazy. You can’t sleep. You can hardly climb stairs anymore, and you are sick of apologizing to everyone around you for being such a distraction. You’re anxious for an answer.
Sure enough, the nurse motions you to come back, and you find yourself on the other side of the doctor’s wooden desk, asking, “So Dr., can you help me?”
He intakes a deep breath. “Well, your tests came back, and I have to say things are quite serious.”
In fact, he spreads out your charts and shows you that even though you just visited him last month, you’ve actually been unhealthy for a long time. He looks you straight in the eye and says that your lifestyle has been slowly killing you, and unless something changes, you won’t make it through the year.
To which you respond, “Okay… but what can you do for my cough?”
It’s no secret that almost a year and a half ago our church found itself again without a pastor, with a shrinking bank account and membership, and this after trying to pull off a myriad of events, updating our facilities, even changing our music. But still, we couldn’t shake our congregational cough. In fact, it was getting so bad, we sought out professional opinion.
And like that doctor, we heard an extreme diagnosis. Like so many churches, we had been dying long before the bank accounts and attendance rolls reflected it, and our terminal diagnosis was, in fact, self-inflicted. Trapped in divisiveness and slavish commitment to personal preference, woefully ingrown and even fearful of our changing community, relegating discipleship to the professionals and unable to see beyond the challenges in front of us.
In God’s mercy, he caught our attention and revealed that business as usual would no longer do. In God’s mercy, he awakened desperation.
It is God’s mercy because a church that has reached the end of itself, a church that has tried everything only to realize quite jarringly that it cannot save itself, a church with one foot in the grave with no hope of recovery can finally receive life from the Life-Giver.
For those who are not yet aware, our church is in a season of replanting—a term which means that our church is seeking deep, lasting renewal, by the power of the gospel.
But I have to tell you, it’s about this point that we can begin to lose our sense of desperation. Yes, God has brought a new pastor as well as sense of excitement and unity which many of us have not experienced in a long time. BUT the stakes are no less severe, friends. Just because the cough has quieted, does not mean the diagnosis has changed.
Now the hope is clear. As Revelation says, life is offered to the church that returns to the church which returns to the works it did at first, a church that returns to the love it had at first, passionately confessing before the throne of grace, “If you will not save, where else can we go?”
Can I ask you, have you lost this sense of desperation? What do your prayers look right now? As changes are presented and your comfort is threatened, are you reminding one another what the real issue is and always has been? Are you searching the Scriptures, pleading that gospel might captivate and change you more than it ever has?
Friends, an encouraged church is worth celebrating, but a desperate church is necessary, still ready to confess whatever he would reveal; to leave behind whatever preference, comfort, control, approval might hinder our mission; to follow him even if it means taking up a cross. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.”
Are you with me in this? Do you want to find your life in laying it down?
This is, in fact, what it looks like to be a “Jesus-Led Church.” For if we believe our body really is in desperate need of nourishment and rehabilitation, there are two things which much change, two things which produce a body nourished and made strong, ready for the tasks it was made for--1) Prayer and 2) Disciple-Making. If we expect renewal, our prayers must change and our discipleship must change.
We will revisit these themes over and over this summer, and I am looking forward to growing beside you in the process. Are you ready for what God might ask, for what the gospel might motive, and for what his Spirit might do? Are you ready to thrive? I can’t wait.
In Christ for God’s glory,