Posted tagged ‘being salt’

Believing A Small Church Is Worth the Effort

October 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            October 15, 2017

 

Yesterday twenty five people descended on an aging church building in a town of five hundred people to be a help. Bill Hale, nine days my junior but years ahead of me in wisdom and craftsmanship, developed the idea along with our area denominational staff person, Mike Oldham.

The idea was to invite a few churches and individuals to come to Simla, a small town on Highway 24 that you would have no reason to go to if you weren’t heading someplace past it, and provide some labor for a few hours that would allow the church to get a few needed projects completed.

The First Baptist Church of Simla is a congregation of about twenty dear people. Bill Hale, Ed Stucky, and myself have been sharing pulpit responsibilities there for the last year and a half or so. They do not have a pastor, although they do have a parsonage right next door to the church.

The group of servers came from Pueblo, Greeley, Colorado Springs, San Antonio, Texas, and, of course, Simla! They ranged in age from four to seventy-four. One man, who owns a company in Colorado Springs, brought his “bucket truck” that allowed limbs and branches from the trees in front of the church that are about as old as sarcasm to be cut back. The carpet in the sanctuary was shampooed, the church sign was touched up with paint. There was painting done to the outside of the building after a power washing was done, and the wood frames of the stained glass windows got a needed fixing up. Sidewalks got edged, weeds got pulled, and the lawn got mowed and trimmed. Massive efforts that meant so much to the people of the church.

What I’ve learned from Simla is that small churches are worth the effort. For me Simla has become my home church. Most Sundays when I’m not speaking there I still travel the forty-five minutes east of Colorado Springs to worship with the “salt of Simla.” Small churches have a purpose. It may not revolve around budgets, staff, and packing the sanctuary, but they have a purpose. The Simla Saints have started doing community ministry efforts with the United Methodist Church a block down the street. They’ve even had discussions about how the three churches in town might have occasional worship services together, interchanging the pastors as the speakers. This past summer they made a good-sized contribution for the beginning expenses of a missionary family who had already been commissioned  by the American Baptist Churches to go to Chiapas, Mexico, but were trying to raise the last few thousand dollars that were needed as seed money. The Simla Saints gave the contribution and also started supporting the missionary family on a monthly basis.

They will never be a mega-church. They wouldn’t know how to handle that. The town of Simla has shrunk by two-thirds in the last twenty years. Mega-churches rarely happen in villages of diminishing size located between here and nowhere. Every week, however, fifteen to twenty people gather in the sanctuary of this church. They don’t whine about their size. Size does not effect the purpose or change the mission. Their purpose is to be Light in a community that struggles to keep on going.

Too many churches are trying to be great! Churches already have the greatest story to share. Sometimes it seems a congregation is trying to be greater than the story!

Simla is a love story of hope that tells of God’s love story. Call me simple, but when I retired from the ministry that’s what I was looking for…and it causes me to keep on keeping on!

Being Salty People

April 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 3, 2016

                                        

“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)

I find it interesting that Jesus used the present tense in teaching a large crowd of people gathered on a hillside about what it means to be a person of God’s kingdom. In the church we are more prone to talk about “becoming a disciple.” Our language indicates that it is like a destination that we haven’t reached, like driving to Alaska. In the church’s approach it’s as if Jesus said “You will some day be the salt of the earth.”

But, intentionally…without a stutter or mixing up words…Jesus said this is who you are right now. The crowd, most assuredly, would have been almost all Jewish, if not all Jewish. They knew what it meant to be Covenant-followers. They knew the Mosaic Law and the emphasis on being the holy people of God. Being the salt of the earth, however, was a new spin for them. Salt added taste, and their religion had lost its flavor. Salt preserved the essence of what had been packed in it, but the passion for and love for God had been stifled.

When Jesus tells the crowd that they are salt he’s taking them with him on a new journey. As soon as he finishes speaking to the people the scriptures tell us that he encountered a man with leprosy…one of the unclean people to avoid…and Jesus touched him. He tells him “Be clean!” And the scripture continues with these words: “Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matthew 8:3b-4)

Jesus didn’t discredit the Covenant of Moses. He simply dusted off the rigidness, the tastelessness, that had caused it to be mis-used.

“You are…”

Jesus was bringing the Covenant-followers to a new journey of being Christ-followers. It’s kind of like coming to Colorado and seeing the mountains, but then having someone invite you to come up with him into the mountains. Either scenario has the mountains as a part of it, but being in the mountains gives you a new perspective, a new level of intimacy and understanding.

As Christ-followers we are to be salty. Not “assaulting!” There are some Christ-followers, who although passionate, have a way of peppering their proclamation in ways that drive the herds away…like dumping the whole bottle of hot sauce on your taco! People run screaming to the water fountain!

Being salt is more about flavor, bringing flavor to a bland existence. It is a question that any church needs to be asking itself: How do we, as the salt of the earth, add flavor to this community and to the lives of people who live here?”

In my cupboard is a container of Morton Salt. Last week we feasted one night on steaks that were grilled. The salt came out and got sprinkled on the sirloin to add that little extra taste to it. To often the church is the salt in the container spending time with the rest of the salt in order to…what, make it saltier?

Being the salt of Christ means we’re touching the lives of those who need the flavor of hope and the taste of being valued.

“You are salt!”