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The Two Cries of a Church That is Alive… (even though others think it is dying)

Devotional & Discussion Thought of the Day:Dawn at Concordia
When the LORD brought us back to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2  How we laughed, how we sang for joy! Then the other nations said about us, “The LORD did great things for them.” 3  Indeed he did great things for us; how happy we were! Psalm 126:1-3 (TEV)

Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. Romans 12:15 (Phillips NT)

 “if this is not a place where tears are understood, where can I go to cry?”  (1)

” I’m going where He goes, out into the world of lonely people:”

“Concordia is the the place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal!”

There has been a blog going around recently, about the last gasps dying churches.  It is quite popular, not with those who are in the dying churches, but those that observe them, and are waiting for them to die.   I’ve been in those churches, and I’ve seen them come back to life, miraculously in some people’s minds. There is a different view from inside than out, there is a different need perceived, there are different words said, different gasps and prayers. They aren’t as self-centered and waiting for the last one to die, so that they can turn the lights out, as is often alleged.

So what does this have to do with the quotes above?  Well, that is where I find the life in these churches.  The two essential cries of the church, the cries of joy, and the cries of sorrow.

If a church can rejoice in the news of a baptism, if a church can cry as a member or friend dies, then it is not dead, or dying.  Depressed perhaps, anxious or frightened, sincere and yet wrong in their, these places where tears of joy and sorrow run, they are alive.  They may need great care, they may need patient shepherding, but they are not dead…..

Here is where it starts, they need to know that they (actually we) aren’t the only ones who hear those cries.  That God Himself laughs, that God himself cries with them.  That there is a great picture of God in Isaiah rejoicing, where the word is actually dance!  And they need to see Jesus tears, as He weeps at Lazarus’ tomb, and as He weeps over Jerusalem.  They need to see God as one who brings comfort and peace, who celebrates who loves His people.

Whoever they are.

I’ve found that these churches that people assume are dying can minister to people who feel lost and overlooked in the mega-churches, in the churches where lament is a concept, but not an experience.  They can be the family of the single mom, they can accept those who struggle with sanity, they can care for the widow and orphan – not just provide them something.  They are great places for families that struggle – because as a congregation, they can rejoice, and they can weep with those who need more than a hour and 4 minutes of a church service. Bring in a missionary, they will minister to him or her extensively.

One of the churches I served once sponsored a pretty famous Christian/Blugrass musician to play at the town fair.  It was a risk – an incredible 5% of our annual budget (which wasn’t much! went to bring him in for a Saturday night concert, and the following morning to play at our church.  That Sunday, as he played to our 45 or so people – and 5-6 guests, the band asked if they were welcome at the potluck afterward.  Of course – come on down – feast.  It was something they never got to do – big venues mobbed them, and they had to hide. With us, they could be ministered to  they could be welcomed as family.  Though it didn’t have the impact we wanted on the community – this little church – that others told me not to come to -because it was dying… served others.

In my experience, these churches are alive, they need gentle shepherding, and they need to know that it is good to cry, good to laugh, good to cling to each other and slowly, as they look to Jesus, as the Holy Spirit ministers among them, they won’t be gasping, they will be crying…to God, with God, in God’s presence.

They will see people come home, as the Psalmist describes….and they will know the Lord is doing great things there…

 
(1)  Ken Medema; quoted in Celtic Daily Prayer:  Aidan Readings for 7/17

(2)  Ann Kiemel  same source

 

 

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