Subconscious consumerism or deliberate decision?

use-meHow did you end up at the church where you are now?  What lies behind that decision you made?  How much of it was consciously thinking through Biblical texts and principles and how much was what feels right?  And if the latter what influenced how you felt?

Society seeks to shape us in all sorts of ways.  It’s impact is seen in all sorts of things.  Not least how we choose which church we will go to.  Consumerism, individualism, entertainment, and a desires for comfort are all bigger influences on us that we would like to think or recognise.  And they exhibit their pull in all sorts of ways over all sorts of decisions, not least our decision over which church to attend.

Our parents, peers and mentors also have hugely significant roles to play in determining our attitude and approach when it comes to choosing a church.  I am grateful for parents who instilled into us, and modelled to us, service in the church.  The church I grew up in wasn’t big, or THE church to be at, but it was a place to commit to, which held out the gospel, taught the Bible and loved people.  That’s why, after a few years at a big church whilst at Uni we returned there to serve.  The only young married couple, with no one within ten years either side of us in terms of peers.  Our thought wasn’t what can I get out of this, but how can we serve.  Not as the answer, we knew we weren’t the answer, but how could we serve Christ and his people here?

That attitude of serving was instilled into me at a young age.  But I recognise there are competing calls, I feel the pull of going someone bigger, where there is less responsibility, less need to be involved, where things are a bit easier, numbers a bit bigger, things a bit flashier.  I feel that even though I pastor a small church in a tough area.  I understand the attraction of a church with a big youth group my boys could thrive in.  I count the cost as a parent of the children in a small Sunday School.  I mourn the loss of other families who have moved on looking for something bigger for their kids with more peers because in part of the message that gives the rest of the church.  And yet God calls me to serve him and others not to consume him, or want to be entertained but to be formed into his image as I serve him where he has put me.

And in reality to choose to do that is not heroic, it’s not sacrificial.  I cannot count the innumerable ways in which every small church I have been a part of has been a blessing to me.  Shaping me.  Confronting me.  Challenging me.  Showing me again the wonder of knowing others deeply enough to one another well and over a committed long-term.

So what has shaped where you are and why?  How much of it was conscious and how much subconscious?  How much was deliberate and principled and how much was default?

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Is God not hearing or are we not listening?

There are few verse I seem to pray as often as Matthew 9v38.  Lord, the harvest field here is so plentiful but we are so short of workers please send us labourers to help us plant, water and harvest.  Though I’m beginning to struggle with my praying this for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1 is that God doesn’t seem to be answering, we haven’t been deluged with a flood of applications to join us as ministry trainees, though we are grateful for one who joined us in September.  We haven’t been inundated with believers moving to Doncaster and wanting to join us, in fact the transfer growth seems to go to two others churches, which I get are more attractive options.  And recently God has taken away rather than send workers.  So I’ve been left pondering am I praying wrong?

Reason 2 church feels small and fragile but we average about 30-35 on any given Sunday.  Maybe the reason it feels small and fragile is that we were 50 a year ago, but people have moved away.  How big is big enough?  My hunch is I would always see the need for more people, the ministries we could do, the extra person needed in this ministry or that ministry.  Maybe the problem is my outlook.  God has graciously given us gifted people who are serving, is my prayer in some way an ungratefulness for what God has generously given.  Let’s be honest that anyone comes week by week is a sign of God’s grace and has everything to do with his mercy and movement by the Spirit and not any natural giftedness on my part.

Reason 3 is that prayer, in itself a good prayer, subconsciously stopping me and therefore us as a church from really going out into the harvest field.  Does it convey a sense of inadequacy?  A sense that we’re not ready yet?  A lack of faith in God’s desire and equipping and empowering for mission?  I wonder if I tend to see barriers, we don’t have somewhere to do ministry, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have enough money, we don’t have a women’s worker… I could go on.  It’s a subtly creeping ministry entitlement, wanting what others have, instead of saying how has God who has called us to reach this area, empowered us to do so?