In the 50’s and 60’s, many churches enjoyed unprecedented growth and attendance. In those days, most churches like this one followed a very simple process: people who believed like we do and would behave like we do could belong to our church. Otherwise, they needed to find another church. Today, the process is much different. In fact, the process is almost the opposite. People are coming into our church and belonging who do not believe like we do, nor do they behave like us. Churches that are holding fast to the old process are dying. Churches that embrace people of various beliefs and behaviors are surviving (and in some cases growing.)
One crucial step in making your church a vital church is toleration. I said to the Board before I was called that there are some people in every congregation who need a sign hung around their neck that says, “Extra grace required.” No matter how small the church, there’s always at least one person and everyone else needs to understand and be tolerant.
When I think of the critical need for toleration, I am reminded of the parable of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the one. My guess is the one was the sheep that said something off the wall and the ninety-nine pushed him out. We can’t afford to push people out. So we need to be like the Good Shepherd and seek out the one (the one that made some ridiculous comment or did something crazy) and bring them into the fold. If we don’t, then we need to prepare to close the church – because it’s going to die.
This blog consists of reflections written by the minister each week for the Sunday bulletin. We hope that you enjoy the musings!