Sometimes, we have to recognise that there isn’t anything specific for the church to do. Sometimes, the right answer is to say there is nothing for us to do. Or, at least, there is nothing more we can do.
We have a tendency to expect the church to fix every possible problem. We can rightly identify things that are less than excellent in the church. But our next question is often very telling: ‘what should be done?’
The question gives away the assumption that something necessarily ought to be done at all. Whilst, of course, sometimes it is right to do something, that isn’t always the case. But the question then tends to lead us to one of three places (or, some combination of all of these at the same time).
One possible destination is the pastor’s syllogism. It is the same as the famous politician’s syllogism from Yes Minister. It runs like this:
- Something must be done
- This is something
- We must do this
This syllogism leads us into all sorts of nonsense because we are convinced something must be done. Almost any something will do.
Another way that question can lead us is down the line of over-programming. It may be that all the things that we do are all credible things to do but, in a bid to resolve every possible problem under the sun, we find more and more programmes to fix them. So, we want more teaching on something, we’ll put something on for that. We have a particular language group that need teaching, we’ll create a group for that. We aren’t reaching this particular group of people, let’s sort out some evangelism that will specifically target them. Before long, you are knee-deep in programmes and killing yourself in the process.
Alternatively, we can end up with an insistence that everybody must be at everything to get full benefit. Whilst that might be a good thing (and, let’s not discount the possibility it equally might not be as good as we think), to insist that people come to everything or find somewhere else to worship – unless the ‘everything’ we are insisting upon is clearly and directly what the Bible would demand of everyone – veers toward the legalistic. We have to be clear that, good as many things but be and wise as we believe it is to go to them, if the Lord doesn’t demand it, nor should we. We can encourage and suggest, but to demand would be to go beyond what the Lord insists upon.
If none of the above sounds that great, I’d suggest that’s because it isn’t. Sometimes, we have to recognise that there isn’t anything specific for the church to do. Sometimes, the right answer is to say there is nothing for us to do. Or, at least, there is nothing more we can do. The church doesn’t exist to meet every felt need or address every possible gap in ministry.