You can weep over the people leaving your church or you can weep over those coming to your church, but you won’t have enough tears for both. There have been seasons in my life when I really stressed over each departure, taking it personally. There have also been plenty of seasons when I took low attendance as a personal defeat. Until one day I had an insight:
GOD OFTEN EMPTIES SOMETHING BEFORE HE REBUILDS IT.
In my case it was exactly what was needed. Almost every departure that has ever occurred was for PCC’s benefit. God scatters people to other churches that best fit their liking (although some people never find a church they like) so that He can raise up people here that want to go in the same direction we are headed. It’s like a slingshot that is pulled backwards and stretched it to its limit just before it is launched forward.
Call it pruning the vine, culling the sheep, or purging the church, the end result is the same: God takes it down to a remnant. These are the people He can best work with.
The most liberating thing I ever did was to let go of my personal expectations, seek the purity of motivation in ministry, and get back to making the honor of God as my highest commitment. My anxiety lifted. This resulted in me loving the people who remained more than ever before, and gave me clarity about our mission and who we’re trying to reach. Suddenly, I realized there was a major work to do – of building people – and I could no longer judge our kingdom impact by the ebbs and flows of people who come-and-go so easily.
I’m beginning to sense that PCC is poised right now for one of the best periods in our church’s life cycle. 2012 is going to be a great year. I have clarity. We’re going to serve our church family to the best of our ability. All of us collectively are going to serve one another. When people are well-served and well-fed, they don’t want to go anywhere else and they can’t help but invite their friends.
Churches that reach people and keep them are healthier than those who don’t. They not only draw in spiritual window-shoppers and lead them to Christ; they also lead them up to maturity. And that, after all, is what Jesus called us to do. He didn’t tell us to go into all the world and “sign people up.” He told us to make disciples – a task that includes baptizing people and teaching them to obey everything He commanded.
Frankly, that’s a task that takes a lot of time…. and since I’m not leaving PCC any time soon, I’m not having an anxiety attack over it.