The sole survivor of a shipwreck was rescued from a deserted island after several years alone. His rescuers marveled at the expansive hut he had built as his home. Then they noticed two more huts near one another on the other side of the small island. When asked about the other two huts he pointed to one of them.
“That’s where I go to church!” he exclaimed with pride.
“Interesting”, replied one of the rescuers. “And what is that other hut?”
“Oh”, he chagrined, “that’s where I used to go to church.” (Insert rim-shot here)
Church hopping - the very term seems to carry an air of negativity - as if a person should find a church, roll up his sleeves and get busy. And never ever again in the unfolding saga of his life should he find the need, desire or opportunity to change from the church where he attends and serves.
But then we are reminded of concepts such as, when one door closes another one opens, or “…for such a time as this…” And we realize that people move from one state to another – and where you begin your spiritual walk may not even be within a thousand miles of where you are finally laid to rest. And a lot of transformations happen in the meantime. Some geographical… some spiritual… some just down right practical!
The Apostle Paul was a church hopper. Oh sure, you could say that he was an Apostle and thus needed to hop to Corinth, and hop to Ephesus, and hop to Thessalonica and Rome and… well, you get the idea. But that’s where his ministry took him. I hate to think of what would not have happened in Paul’s ministry had he not been a church hopper.
When a church gets new leadership changes begin to take place. This is to be expected - even anticipated. And so when things start happening differently in the Sunday morning service you understand that changes are par for the course. And when staff members start leaving you accept that a new administration brings with it a new team, sometimes by transition, sometimes in mass. So you swallow hard and accept that it is for the best.
Routines are shuffled up. Old programs are phased out and new ones instituted. The very individuals who taught your Sunday School classes and served you communion wafers and changed the light bulbs in the sanctuary change. And in the midst of it all you pray for God’s guidance and look to this new leadership. You look first to see if your needs will be met. And then you look to see where your place may be in helping to meet the needs of others. And you realize that, just as changes are taking place around you, you yourself must be willing to change.
But you also realize that this new pastor is not Previous Pastor, Part 2. He is a different man with a different plan. It’s a plan you may or may not agree with, and you may or may not have a place in that plan. If you do, you re-roll your sleeves and get busy serving. If not, you realize there are others for whom this plan is a perfect fit.
But if that plan is designed on pretenses of which you do not approve and cannot support, it becomes obvious to you that there remains no role for you to fill. After all, can two walk together unless they are agreed? Perhaps you have even seen many you’ve come to know and love packing their bibles and leaving, and you start to sense an atmosphere of “hop or get hopped!” And so, after much prayer, you hop.
Your only hopping hope is that by sharing your thoughts others will realize the observations they have observed and the suspicions they have suspected are not merely imagined. And hopping is not a sin. But then, neither is refusing to hop.
Godspeed, my friend.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
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