When I was a newbie Christian, I worshiped with a small congregation. The highlight of most months was to have a visitor stop in to worship with us. Any strange face would cause a stir and at least a modicum of excitement. The younger the visitor, the more it would ratchet up the ante on our excitement. Half the congregation would be beside themselves at the site of an entire young family walking through the back door.
I’m sure this is how it is in most small church families. Visitors are few and far between, and they represent new fodder for a variety of possibilities—evangelization, greater vitality, and (of course) more money for the mission (and upkeep) of the church.
It’s kind of amazing how that works. Even in our small burg, a few thousand people surrounded us. Yet, for the most part, we sat in our little, isolated building and hoped everyone would come to us.
I’ll bet you’ve heard Einstein’s definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. By that definition, we were insane. In fact, by that definition, most congregations are insane.
Of course, we would stand on our heads if we thought it would bring better results (at least I think we would). Naturally, we don’t think it would do any good; so we don’t stand on our heads. Since we don’t think anything in particular would do any good, we do nothing. How’s that for logic? So now we’re both insane and illogical (a good combination, don’t you think?).
Many of us are part and parcel of insane, illogical congregations…”
And so it goes… Many of us are part and parcel of insane, illogical congregations going about the Lord’s work (as long as that work doesn’t take us beyond the four walls of the sanctuary). Unfortunately for us, we keep forgetting that the Lord’s command is to “Go!” Remember the Great Commission?
Just before he left us behind to fend for ourselves, he gave us this parting gift. “Therefore GO and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Don’t you just hate that?
If only he had said, “Stay where you are, build nice, comfortable buildings with really modern accommodations, and I’ll funnel some awfully cool sheep in your direction.” Maybe it does say that in some lost gnostic gospel somewhere. If so, it’s just our misfortune that it never made it into the final canon. Drat the luck!
Hence, we’re stuck with the command to go (not stay). We’ve been commissioned to make disciples of people out there in the nations. Man, that’s a lot of territory. And to think, Jesus started with twelve close disciples, seventy-two short-term missionaries, and one hundred twenty frightened rabbits in an upper room. How in the world did we get this far? A little insanity, a dearth of logic, and a whole lot of the Holy Spirit…
Don’t look now—here comes a visitor—everyone smile!
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]