We lost a couple more families at church recently, people who were very involved. Not only is it hard to watch them go, but it’s hard to fill the void they leave behind. And given that our church is small, and that those who contribute tend to wear many hats, that void is significant. We lack bench strength; few others are ready or able to step up.
For example, one departing member played the piano in our praise band, was an elder, chaired a key committee, and had recently began filling in as treasurer. Nobody else plays piano; the music minister will have to carry the praise band with his guitar. The man who took over this fellow’s other duties is quite busy already as an elder, chair of another key committee, and more.
I’m an elder in this church, too. I don’t normally bring it up because I wish to avoid anyone thinking I have achieved some higher spiritual plane or somehow have an “in” with God. I have neither. I’m bewildered that God has asked me to fill this role because I don’t think I can even stand in the shadows of elders I’ve admired. But I’m delighted that God wants to use me to care for this congregation.
Serving in this capacity only heightens my grief over this congregation’s condition. These members leaving has sent me into a bit of an emotional tailspin. It’s hard for me to imagine how we can keep our doors open when we’re losing muscle and bone. All of us elders want our congregation to be restored and to grow again. We think God wants to honor that. But we’re in bad enough shape that our efforts won’t be enough make it happen.
We keep bringing up Judges 7, the story of Gideon and his army. God let Gideon know he was to form an army and go fight the Midianites, who had an army of 135,000 men. Gideon mustered just 32,000 men. But God whittled that number to only 300 soldiers and sent them out. Gideon and his army beat the Midianites – and with impossible odds like those, nobody could deny that God brought that victory.
We lean on this story for comfort and strength. It gives us faith that God will show us an amazing victory, too, one that can be credited only to him. My hope is that seeing God act undeniably to renew our congregation – dare I hope that many will come to know Christ because God has loved them through us? – will make all of our hearts beat wild with love for him.