At Christ the King, we concluded our Vacation Bible School last evening and it was a good experience with over 50 children learning more about their Savior through Bible stories, songs, and crafts. There was a goodly number of volunteers who gave of their time and energy to make the five evenings a great time for the children.
After it was over, an adult asked me, “Pastor, how many families have joined our church because of our Vacation Bible School?” It’s an honest question because we always want to see results for our efforts, whether it be at church, at home, at work, wherever. We want to see the fruit of our labor.
And we know that of those families sending children to our Vacation Bible School, close to one half are unchurched or “dechurched” (that means they were once upon a time members of a congregation but are not members at the present time) so it seems legitimate that some of those sending their children to us would be looking for a church home.
There are reasons why those people are not attending institutional churches today and they vary from being upset with the pastor/priest to feeling God has let them down in some form or fashion to a personal disagreement with another member to the church’s concern for money (or whatever the issue) to you fill in the blank. These same people will still claim to have faith in God, but it’s the church they have the problem with. And they usually aren’t too interested in coming back any time soon.
Well, that kind of answer doesn’t make church members very happy because that tells them their efforts to bring back those who left the church will have little results. You can see the frustration levels increase and the worry level skyrocket about what will happen to “my church” if everyone stops attending? Will we be shutting our doors soon?
I was challenged on this very point recently by a very concerned member who bluntly put it, “Pastor, we don’t see you bringing enough people into the church.”
I feel his pain because these are the things that keep me awake at night wondering what can be done. Is there something I have not done? Some way I have not reached out to those not attending? And the answer is always, “Yes, there is more that I could be doing.”
And that’s brings me back to the question, “Who’s church is this?” And the answer, “God’s.” Any congregation, including Christ the King, belongs to our Heavenly Father and ultimately He is responsible for His church. Does that mean that I just sit back and do nothing, waiting for God to do everything? Of course not, and if I do I am a poor steward of the gifts God has given to me. We are called to sow the seed of God’s Word, to fertilize it, water it, and God will bring home the harvest of believers.
Not so sure about that? The New Testament congregation at Corinth was a struggling church and the apostle Paul wrote to them an encouraging letter. One of their issues was of leadership, who would they follow? Some felt loyalty toward Paul, some toward others. Paul had this to say about the true leader of the church of Corinth: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servant through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
We like results. It shows that our efforts are worthwhile or not worthwhile. There is a sense of immediacy in that we know right away if we have accomplished our goal. But in God’s kingdom we work according to His timeframe, not ours. We sometimes get impatient because we want results right now.
All God asks us to do is to keep working in spreading the seed of His Word, to fertilize it, water it, and He will cause it to grow. Our VBS is a case of us sowing the seed. We are seeing children return to us year after year because they enjoy what we are doing and what they are learning. Will we see them join Christ the King? That’s a question I cannot answer at this time because only God knows. We can only trust our Lord to bring home the harvest when He says its time. Until then, we keep hard at work sowing the seed.