Easy Victories and Long Journeys

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 April 13, 2016

                    

My friend, Steve Wamberg, and I are sharing the Sunday speaking duties at a very small church in a small community on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. Wonderful people, simply incredible! Steve and I have come to realize that this small congregation is, for lack of a better term, stuck. They don’t have a pastor, and they are an aging congregation in the midst of a community that is declining in population.

What’s a church to do?

This Sunday they’ve asked us to help them “talk”, to brainstorm, and create a little bit of congregational movement. One of the first things we’re going to help them figure out is what might be a couple of easy victories. For instance, one of the church signs has been leaned up against the building for several months. Perhaps an easy victory for this congregation would be to put the sign back up, make sure it’s in good shape, and even plant some flowers around it.

That might be an easy victory that the whole congregation can get behind. One easy victory can be the primer for another victory.

Most congregations need easy victories that can be applauded by all. Let me emphasize the “by all” part! There is a danger in many churches of a “victorious superiority” to surface as a result of one ministry/program having success. However, when a whole congregation agrees on an initiative the whole congregation can applaud itself.

Easy victories are within reach of any church. It just needs to be willing to see them. Here’s a few examples of what could be easy victories:

-Children are encouraged to be involved in the ushering duties of Sunday worship. A mentor usher trains, demonstrates, and encourages them.

-The church sponsors a “Thank You Breakfast” for teachers and administrators from the local school sometime during the school year.

-The congregation adopts a flower bed somewhere in the community and cares for it.

-A monthly gathering of senior citizens is begun for fellowship and presentations from different professionals in the community who have resource information relevant to the lives of the elderly.

– One Saturday morning paint the hand railings outside the building.

 

At some time, however, a church needs to identify a direction for the long journey. If an easy victory is like a trip to the local supermarket to purchase items for dinner tonight, the long journey is comparable to a trip across country that needs to incorporate lodging, meals, road maps, and reliable transportation. Whereas one can be accomplished with little effort, the latter takes more thought and discussion.

If a church experiences a few easy victories it prepares itself…motivates itself…to take on a long journey. For example, in Denver there is a large population of Karen people from Myanmar. A couple of churches have committed to the long journey of helping the Karen get settled, find employment, and establish a Karen church and/or worship service where their native language is spoken. It is a very long journey and the churches that have been traveling it are very committed to international missions and ministries.

Long journeys require congregations that are willing to stay the course, and staying the course is not something that our culture has a tendency to be willing to do. The hunger for success too often derails the journey.

Easy victories encourage and motivate churches, but the long journey shows the depth of a congregation’s commitment. Recently I was the starter for a middle school track meet. The participants in the girls’ 100 meter hurdles race were lining up. One young lady was looking down the track at the rows and rows of hurdles. With a concerned facial expression she asked me, “Do we have to run the whole way?”

Seems like a silly question, but that’s the question that many churches have to ask themselves as they look at the long journey. Do we have to go the whole way? Does a church that says it is committed to helping struggling families in a changing community that is experiencing more violence stay the course, or go halfway and then flee the scene?

The question for any congregation is “what is that long journey for us?”

I would tell you that is varies from church to church, but always involves three things: relationships, sacrifice, and transformation. The long journey will always involve all three, never just two out of three!

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized

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3 Comments on “Easy Victories and Long Journeys”

  1. Amy Dickerson Says:

    Great article. It seems like these are a lot like the issues that Tony’s group-Village Missions has taken on. Good thing he has a good mentor in you to tackle them. ; )

    PS if you and Carol ever want a retirement trip…come on over to Portland. We have plenty of space and it would be great to see you!!!

  2. David K. Volitis Says:

    A very thought provoking write-up. If heeded, watch that little Church grow by leaps and bounds.

    • wordsfromww Says:

      A big thanks to a big friend! No wait! that sounds like I’m saying you’re overweight! A big thanks to an awesome guy who I miss greatly!


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