by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
– 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
If you have driven into downtown Cincinnati by way of Reading Road to Central Parkway, you have been greeted by this ArtWorks mural. I’ve always loved the hopefulness of this, that there are no limits to the good that Cincinnati could be (I’m a glass-bubbling-over kind of person, so I always see it in the positive).
Recently a good friend sent me the Scripture above as an affirmation – one I sorely needed at that time. I am a letter from Christ. It is written on my heart. And I am written on His.
Our coming-out-of-COVID-maybe-finally and going-back-into-holidays time has not been easy. Churches here and all over the country are figuring out what is the evolving normal – we haven’t gotten to new normal yet. And some of the churches making decisions have brought a time of grieving, second-guessing, anger, blaming – and ultimately, resignation.
What grieves my heart is that, when finally facing the reality of years of declining membership and giving, the solutions that first emerge are programmatic. Ways to make more money so we can stay the way we are and not have to change. Ways to maintain our comfortable status quo. Or we look to hire a pastor who will do all that change for us – except that when that pastor arrives, we will permit no change.
Friends, this is not what Christ came for. This is not what He wrote on our hearts.
He gave us one Great Commandment, and one Great Co-mission: Love God, love people. Make Disciples. Who love God, love people, and make more Disciples, who love God… you get the idea. Except that we don’t. We’re too busy protecting our comfortable way of being country-club Christians to go out and make disciples. And then we wonder why no one wants to be with us.
I’m sorry, but it’s true. And it’s wrong.
Being church means getting outside the walls of your building and being the church out there. Because we are walking letters from Christ to the world. To each other. To the people around us – ALL OF THEM, not just the ones we see on Sunday. Christ is written on our hearts. Do we show it? 80% of congregational growth is because the congregation is out there inviting people to worship and fellowship and grow and change. The people we want to come in will change the way we worship, and that will – in turn – grow us in our faith. God is glorified through this – and glorifying God is always the point of worship!
Are our limits carved into our hearts? No – but they are carved into our actions (or lack thereof).
I’m a glass-bubbling-over kind of person, so I always see the positive. I still believe there are no limits to the good that the Presbytery of Cincinnati, and all our churches, could be. I’ve always loved and prayed for the hopefulness of this. Soli Deo Gloria.