Audacity will usually be rewarded. We started here at First St Johns at what was probably its lowest point in a history that dated back to 1875. We still have a long way to go and it’s certainly all about God’s will. The question remains as to how we may or may not end up, we could still very well not make it, but this church would be missed.
There is no doubt that we have made a mark, the test is, will the church be missed if it closes tomorrow? Without qualification I would say yes, that FSJ would be missed. Jim McClure the editor of the York Daily Record identified FSJ as a community outreach church, we have made a mark with the Food bank, employment group, Grief Share, NA, AA, prayer breakfast, workout area and of course the radio station has garnered an immense amount of attention.
Regardless, God has used us for His purposes, but it doesn’t mean He has to keep us here. I have learned that acting audaciously, doing things that appear to be over your capacity does get attention and does generate support. When things are happening, people will notice. They’re not going to notice a church that is just hiding behind its walls. When I started at FSJ I started walking around the neighborhood. When I told our neighbors who I was, they told me they thought FSJs had closed. Who is going to respond to a place they think is closed? But if they see activity, they see involvement, there’s at least a chance they will respond with physical and financial support. We’ve seen that happen at FSJs. If you are doing things to serve, to be a Christian disciple, people will provide money when they see that things are happening, that there is a level of excitement and we’ve seen that happening at FSJ.
It does make me wonder what so many churches are thinking when they seem to chose to passively conduct Christian ministry. Remember the “Parable of the Talents”? (Matthew 25:15-28 ESV) The “Master”, clearly God; Father, Son and or Holy Spirit (Matthew Henry says the Master was Jesus). The Master gives His servants 5, 2, and 1 talents to be used to enrich Him. A “talent” was about a 100 pounds of silver, in today’s value that would be about $2,000., certainly not an inconsequential amount, especially for the first servant who is given about $10,000. The first servant takes the $10,000, entrusted to him and what does he do? Brings another $10,000. Good job! Right? “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21)
The second servant takes the two talents he’s given, brings back $4,000. Not too shabby, I’d sure like to find out what they invested in. But the third servant just returns the one talent he was entrusted with???? Wha…. What’s the point? What good is that? And yet there are plenty of churches out there who somehow think that they are serving the Lord. They’re not, they’re just serving each other. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “You wicked and slothful servant!” Pretty strong! But was the servant there just to hide the money and return it to his Master? Anyone can do that, he was there to serve his Master and he was “afraid” and chose to just run away from his responsibility. So it is with so many of these dying churches.
There are the churches that are dying, the churches that aren’t going to burn out, but rust out. They sit around bemoan their fate, maybe do some bake sales, or find a few children to have a VBS for, then they go back, carefully count their pennies, agree that if they’re careful and no serious problems they may make it another year and then go and do the same uninspired, unexciting things they’ve been doing and only that. They sit around and wonder why no one else is interested in being a part of their church. How do they really expect that God is calling to call them “good and faithful servants”? Why on earth would God send someone there to be discipled? Discipled to what? Sitting around with a lack of faith and service and hope that you can hide from reality? How are they really serving, except, maybe, each other, just returning to God what He gave them, in fact if anything, not even what they were given. Why on earth would anyone think that God is going to bless and encourage that kind of attitude?
The flip side, so it appears to me now, is that you do things that do attract attention, you get people involved in things. Sure they may not work out or are as successful as they should be. Servant 3 would take that as a reason not to do that activity, or anything else for the duration. FSJ takes that and says, “ok, how do we make it better? What should we have done before…” and we start again.
Now, the radio station thing? Pure nuts, right? But it has generated attention and even given us entree to people and groups that we would never have had any opportunity to go to otherwise. People have seen what’s happened, they have moved on faith to support us, encouragement, prayers, financially etc. They have been a part of something they’re proud of, that their neighbors see in the newspaper, hear about in other places, they hear exciting plans and opportunities. Hopefully they get involved and of course it generates more interest, support and activity in the church.
You know what? We may not be around in another year, wouldn’t be the first, won’t be the last organization not to make it. But if we don’t make it, there will be a lot of people who will say; “what a shame, they did a lot of good stuff… hmmm, what could we do to help them get back into the game?…”
Conversely Servant 3 closes the door and not with a bang, but with a whimper and nary a person notices. No one was served, no one grew or was encouraged. Nothing was done to get people excited or involved, just poof, no one showed up for worship the next Sunday and really no one else noticed or cared.
Could be compared to a human, the one who slowly kills themselves through selfishness and bad habits and the bad habits; cancer, obesity, cardio, pulmonary, diabetes, liver disease on and on and they finally die. And the person who pushes themselves in one more triathlon and gloriously just drops right there on the course. Both knew they had a chance to die and one chose to just keep to himself and die a lonely, miserable death. The other one decided, one quick blaze of glory. Who wouldn’t want the blaze of glory? You’ve served others, you’ve made yourself a better person for your spouse, children, family, friends and they will remember you and may even live by your example. You’ve lived and served as a true disciple of Jesus. There are plenty of Christian servants who maybe didn’t “succeed”, but the results of their service will be, is, known by God and will be rewarded. The other? Doesn’t inspire in the least, is really seen as just miserable and even pathetic and no one misses them for an instant.
When we are being Servant 1 and are doing great things for the Kingdom, being faithful, being audacious, faithful to God’s will but crazy to the world, we may not be around next year, but we will be missed. Yea I’d rather do it the FSJ’s way.