Smoldering churches

img_0685The haunting images of the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris dominated the headlines this week.  This church had stood the test of time, as construction started in 1163 and took over 100 years to build.  But in a matter of minutes, the blaze took down a historic spire and engulfed much of the facade, stained glass windows and roof.

We’ve got our own destructive fires in churches closer to home. Fires of indifference and apathy.

Results from a Gallup Poll released last Thursday show that adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has dropped by 20% over the past two decades. Church membership is at an all-time national low, dropping to 50% (church membership was at 70% in 1999).

We are encouraged to gather together.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Indifference and apathy grow in spaces that are void of genuine relationships.  Churches can thrive when we create a loving, warm environment.  That can’t be done by our ministers, counselors, elders and deacons alone.  The membership has to help.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Talk with the church leaders about lapsed members. Volunteer to write letters or call these folks. Ask and listen about their needs.

Create opportunities to serve with others: Visit the sick or the elderly. Get a small group together to serve at the homeless shelter.

Fellowship is a contact sport.  Assembling for worship. Praying together. Singing together. Studying God’s word together. Attending to each other’s needs.

And if you find yourself in a spiritual funk- pray about it. And then tell someone about it. Your brothers and sisters in Christ want to help you…they just need to know how.

My prayer this week is to be more aware of ways to encourage old friends and engage new ones in their spiritual walk. And in doing so, I know that I will be uplifted as well.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

Standard

An insignificant life on Duncan Road

IMG_1420

Insignificant, lonely and barren.

There is a solitary, scraggly spruce tree perched atop a knoll along the side of Duncan Road in Knoxville.  You would never notice it unless you were looking for it.  Its branches are odd lengths.  There are bare spots on all sides.  It is dwarfed by a series of massive evergreen trees around it.  It truly looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree from the classic cartoon special.

Charlie Brown tree

Yet for one month out of the year, this tree shines.  Literally.  Someone from a neighboring group of houses runs an extension cord across the field and illuminates the tree with lights.  And every night around sundown this scruffy tree becomes a beautiful beacon of light on a dark stretch of Knox County roadway.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

My family loves the tradition.  We look for it each night when coming home from work, church or a ball practice.  We talk about it all year long too.  “When will they turn on the Duncan Road Christmas Tree this year?”

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5: 13-14

Aren’t we all a bit like this tree?  We often feel insignificant, unattractive and unloved.  We compare ourselves to others- only seeing the qualities that we wish we possessed.

The truth is that we are unique individuals.  And God has given us unique talents.  Talents that should be used to serve others and spread the love of Jesus all over the world.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11

God loves us for who we are, not for who we think we should be.  This holiday season let’s put aside our fears and doubts.  Let’s pray for the realization of our unique gifts…the gifts that God has given us to serve and make a difference in the lives of others.

And like that spruce tree on Duncan Road, let’s shine when given the opportunity.

God bless you.  Merry Christmas.

Standard