Monday, October 10, 2011


In the wee hours of Sunday morning life suddenly became exciting in "Trudy's world" for all the wrong reasons!  My husband decided to let our dogs out, sometime around 3ish, when the civilized world is fast asleep.  We have two younger "pups" (they are not quite two years old yet) and two older dogs.  The pups seem to be under the illusion that anything outside is a living chew toy, meant to be chased.  The skunk in the woods did not share their perspective and proceeded to make his objection known by a full on spray!  My husband, hearing the commotion and wanting to bring peace to the neighborhood, let them in the house!  And that is the point, that I woke up from my blissful slumber due to the most wretched, eye watering smell known to man!  Thanks to the dogs, my house was skunked!

We did manage to get them back outside but the damage was done-the house reeked!  So Sunday was spent washing-anything and everything, trying to get the smell out of the house.  When family and friends stopped by to visit, the first thing I asked was "how bad is the smell in the house?"  A lingering odor but by acting fast and going deep we managed to eradicate most of the unpleasantness!

As I was fighting what seemed like a losing battle, I thought about the section in Hebrews that I had read on Saturday.  In chapter 10 Paul is telling the Hebrews to hang on, to not quit, to stick it out.   The Message paraphrase says this:
"If we give up and turn our backs on all we've learned, all we've been given, all the truth we now know, we repudiate Christ's sacrifice and are left on our own to face the Judgment-and a mighty fierce judgment it will be!"
A little further on in the chapter:
"But you need to stick it out, staying with God's plan so you'll be there for the promised completion." 
This got me thinking about the people who come in the front doors at our church and leave out the side door. Is it that they have given up on their faith, or have they just given up on the church?  I've talked to some of those people who went quietly out the side door over the years.  I've even been one of them, to be honest!  A lot of them left not because they lacked faith, they left because the church lacked depth.  I remember in particular, a conversation with a former member who ended up going to a different church down the road. He said to me "I love the people here but what I got was milk.  What I get at this other church is meat and I needed that!  There came a point in my spiritual walk when I needed more than just milk on Sunday morning."  I think on the times when I had to walk away from a church and those occasions had to do with the fact that I just got burned out.  I'm one of those "willing volunteers" that gets over volunteered and there doesn't seem to be any graceful way out!  So, rather than cause a conflict, I quietly exit out the side door.

We talk a lot about evangelism and outreach in general.  We want our members "going out in to the world".  I agree, that we need to be "out and about" more.  I do wonder though, are we equipping our members to do that?  Are we giving them the depth of teaching that they can go out confidently?  Are we also giving our members who do volunteer and do go out, an opportunity to take a break when they need to?  Do we recognize what our members already do as far as volunteering in ways that may not be connected to the church?

Tough questions!  No easy answers for me at least!  One thing that I do see though is that there seems to be, in some circles, a desire to look at each thing as a separate entity and I am not convinced that is such a wise thing.  Let's take evangelism for example, if we don't teach members well about what we believe, why we believe it and why it is important (in other words, give them some depth) then how will they respond if they are challenged when they try to share their faith?  If you feel like you're going to lose in the first place, then why would you battle through the frustration and exhaustion in order to win the battle?  The average member in our church will not be standing out in front of a crowd talking about their faith walk, they will be doing it one on one.  So, knowing that this will be the "style" of evangelism that the majority will be doing, isn't it worth looking at the depth of teaching that we have in our own church to empower them to share confidently?  To me, this is not an "either/or", this is a "both/and" situation.

This has been percolating in me for awhile but it really came to the forefront for me after attending the Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection.  I don't think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill on this idea.  I don't think I'm barking up the wrong tree.  The Methodist tradition and Wesleyan heritage has depth.  We just need to work on how we teach that depth to our members.  Without depth, our members do not have the tools to evangelize or to hang in there for the long haul.    

The pups had never run in to a skunk before.  The older wiser dogs knew to stay clear.  The younger two got sprayed and then came into the house where they "shared the love".  Hopefully the pups learned their lesson and will steer clear of skunks in the future!  I worked hard to get the smell out of the house and by the time I was done, I was exhausted.  But I knew if I acted quickly and stuck with it, eventually I would gain some ground.  And when all was said and done, I could take a break and recharge my batteries.  Asking our new members to go out and evangelize is like sending the pups out to face a skunk.  Without some depth of experience, they could end up getting painfully sprayed.  And when they do get sprayed they run for home.  If we do not have experienced leaders there to help clean them up, then the smell will stay.  And the leaders-they need time to recharge their batteries as well.  Whether it is a minister or a volunteer, they may have the experience but they can get burned out if they are expected to do the work all of the time.  Balance is the key.    Looking at one area specifically is not a bad thing in and of itself.  But when we isolate from the "both/and" realm of experience and depth than we are short changing our ability to address the problem.  We need to reach out, we need to evangelize but in order to be effective we also have to recognize the need for teaching.  Depth and experience and time for rest, need to be part of the equation as well!

And I am positive that "both/and" sure beats getting skunked!  I speak from the voice of experience on that one!

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