One of my favorite annual rituals is buying a new calendar. It’s such a cheap and easy way to add art and inspiration to the everyday and ordinary.
Last year, I ran out of time and my usual routine of meticulously choosing just the right one was kyboshed and I ended up picking through the leftovers at a big box store and choosing what I’d hoped would be the least horrible out of the lot. All was well — that is to say, I wasn’t inspired but the photography was OK and the quotes from spiritual leaders of the past weren’t too hokey.
And then it happened. It was the ceremonial changing of the month and when I had September 2017 firmly pinned up and stood back to read the quote — I was wrecked and I’ve been a bit haunted ever since. There in the bottom right hand corner with a photograph of an inviting, meandering dirt path in the middle of lush green fields was a quote by D.L. Moody whose challenge I cannot shake…
“Our greatest fear should not be failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.”
As a pastor, I had to ask myself, is the Church succeeding at things that don’t really matter? I eventually had to stop myself and decide that deconstructing the whole of the Church was probably not a wise use of my time and instead, I asked God’s Spirit to remind me of how success is defined in the kingdom of God. I quickly had to admit that what the Church is so often tempted to use as a definition of its success is only a shadow of what we were created for.
The Church is tempted to count; mostly attendance and money. We were created to help people realize how much they count…how much they are unreservedly loved by the Creator of the Universe.
The Church is tempted to attract people to its buildings, its worship style, its “dynamic” leaders, and its version of “we’ve got it all figured out.” We were created to remind people that God is interested in doing for them what they cannot do for themselves.
The Church is tempted to base its success on how much its parishioners feel “fed” by its programs and sermons. We were created to help people journey to a time where they have learned to feed themselves, where they are nourished by Christ, and where they have the courage to feed others.
The Church is tempted to believe its calling is to be for the poor. We were created to be with the poor. The Church is tempted to subtly pretend that God’s grace is rationed out and that it isn’t for ALL. We were created to proclaim the Good News that, through Christ, God is inviting every one of us to peace. Peace with our Creator, peace with ourselves and peace with others.
May each one of our churches succeed at what really matters.