The church where I attend is dying.

Neighboring farm families who settled in northwest Marion County founded North Liberty Christian Church in 1839. Their names are on the gravestones around our building.

Gravestones at North Liberty Christian Church

The congregation has has its ups and downs in 170 years. We’ve built two log cabins, a brick church, and the current brick-faced cinder block building on the spot where those farmers first met, growing to at least 250 members. Yet in 1877 our doors closed for 11 years. And about ten years ago we suffered a destructive split, followed by several years of factions fighting for control. This nonsense has cost us dearly; our membership has dwindled to about 70. Our offering doesn’t cover expenses. Too many members are burned out and apathetic.

Gravestones at North Liberty Christian Church

I’ve been at North Liberty for five years. God brought me here, I think, to get through and then heal from my divorce. But then he had service in mind for me, and has laid any number of things before me to do in this congregation. I’ve done everything I think God has asked me to do and many more things that I saw that needed to be done. I’m pretty involved. But deep in my heart I have been hoping God doesn’t ask me to step up any more.

Gravestones at North Liberty Christian Church

I watch a small handful of people in our church who are involved in everything. It seems to me that they are desperately trying to keep the place together. They are exhausted, but they keep at it like soldiers on the front line who have been fighting continuously without a break. I don’t want to be one of those people. I have enough going on in my life outside the church, including a demanding job, taking care of a house and yard essentially alone, and trying to raise my children under circumstances that I wish were much better. I want to have time for my hobbies, such as my road trips and this blog, for the joy and restoration they bring. My life is full. Please God, don’t put any more on my plate.

Gravestones at North Liberty Christian Church

During worship last Sunday, I was in the balcony at the sound board. The fellow who has done that for us the past few years has moved on with his family to another church. I was always his backup, and so now the job defaults to me. Nobody else can do it. I was not particularly happy to gain one more assignment, especially one that keeps my sons and I from worshiping with the rest of the congregation below.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that Sunday morning anyway and had just come from the Sunday school class I taught, one I thought I was prepared for but through which I stumbled as though I’d never seen the material before. So I was feeling good and grumbly up there in the balcony, where I didn’t want to be anyway. I was just going through the motions, and was paying only enough attention to punch the right buttons on cue. Then a song, one that we didn’t even sing that day, started playing in my head.

I’m trading my sorrows
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down
For the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down
For the joy of the Lord

Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord
Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord
Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord, Amen.

I’m pressed but not crushed
Persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse
For his promise will endure
That his joy is going
To be my strength

Though my sorrows may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

Gravestones at North Liberty Christian Church

The song was distracting and I wished it would go away. And then my mind got stuck on the chorus, all the yes, Lords. By the 30th or 40th chorus I was seriously considering humming “It’s a Small World” to myself to shake this song – and suddenly I became aware that answering God’s call was the theme of that day’s worship in both song and sermon, which I thought I had not been paying attention to. And I felt that God was making sure I heard it.

Okay, Father, so you reached me. You told me through the circumstances of my day and through the actions of my mind that you want me simply to say yes to all you ask. You suggested through it that what you ask will not be more than I can bear. I can do it, Father; I will do it. Whether I’m to see this congregation die or see its spirit rekindled, I know you want me there doing the work you’ve set aside for me. I know you know my situation, and I’m going to trust you to meet my needs.


17 responses to “Yes, Lord”

  1. Aaron Moman Avatar

    God has promised never to give us more than we can handle. But I think we all wonder sometimes if God really sees what’s going on…because there’s no way we could handle all that! But to grow you have to stretch. And sometimes to grow you have to fail. Growth comes with pain.

    And you do just have to say, “Yes, Lord”. I love that song. It’s one of my favorites. I’d never seen obedience as one of the messages of the song, but I think it is there. Thank you for expanding the depth of the song for me. I’ve always, obviously, focused on the message of “it’ll get better”. But it gets better through obedience.

    I hope that the right thing, whatever it is, happens for your church and you.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Every time I’ve hung in there with God, he’s shown me something greater than I could ever imagine. I have no reason to believe that this will be different. My main problem day to day is managing my attitude.

  2. sambarrington Avatar

    I’m looking for the “I like this” button on your blog post. Is that only on Facebook? Funny how I keep trying to find that stupid button in all areas of my life. So…consider the “I like this” button pushed.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks, Sam!

  3. Anon Avatar

    Prayer is not reciting by rote. Prayer is not making demands of God. Prayer is not asking of God. Prayer is not bargaining with God.
    Prayer is listening.

  4. kurt Avatar

    it is a crazy thing to put your trust in someone you can’t even see….to assume that God knows what is best…to say yes to what He may have for you.

    but with so much experience in this department lately, not so much by going willingly, I have to say it is crazier to NOT give it over to Him. It is that trust in walking thru the junk we actually get to see how big God is.


    1. Jim Avatar

      My human experience tells me loud and clear that this is not going to end well, I will have a rough go of it, and I should go find a better situation. But God hasn’t released me from his service at this location yet. So I stay.

      1. Aaron Moman Avatar

        I’ve learned the most from the worst experiences I’ve been through…

        The key is knowing when it’s time to leave or change, if you’ve got the choice. I pray that you will have a clear voice from God on this. You and your church will be in my prayers.

  5. Jim Avatar

    One thing I’m very sure of, Aaron, is that I am to serve here until I feel God leading me elsewhere. It’s like someone assigned to a post in the Army — he stays and works until the Army sends him elsewhere. I am like a soldier here. Hidden in this is a tacit message that while I’m assigned here, I am simply to do my best, but leave the results to God.

  6. N.S. Palmer Avatar

    A very poignant and uplifting article.

    (( Please God, don’t put any more on my plate. ))

    We all feel like that sometimes. And every time I think I’ve got God’s plan figured out, He reminds me that I don’t.

    As St. Augustine said, in this world, we walk by faith, not by sight. We just have to trust, hang on tight, and do our best. God will handle the rest.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Amen, and amen.

  7. scribecorner Avatar

    Wow! I was just browsing through your blog and I came across this post. Thanks for sharing this. It’s the very thing God has been speaking to me today. Have felt down since morning and haven’t felt really spiritual with all the rush and madness of house work and travelling to the office. I guess even in this time it is a big “Yes Lord!” :) God bless

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’m glad my story resonated with you!

  8. Dawn Avatar

    I feel you on this. I feel overwhelmed with responsibility (and service) most days but God’s grace is sufficient.

    I’ve really enjoyed stopping by and reading.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks for chiming in!

  9. Virginia Avatar

    I enjoyed this blog, although it makes me tired and depressed for you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Virginia, I’m so glad that this was a few years ago – things are so much less stressful and frenzied now.

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