Walking home from dropping my wee fella at school I was struck today by the image of potholes. Those of you who are car drivers, especially in residential areas of South Lanarkshire, will have a love/hate relationship with potholes. As a general rule the council simply fill in these holes rather than take up the road and start again. Now before this becomes a rant about potholes I want us to consider whether the church is as guilty of filling in potholes instead of doing a proper job of re-laying the road.
The road between my house and the main road is so rutted that there are more potholes than road. In the few years that I have been here the holes have continued to appear, more each time and the council faithfully pour in some tar, squash it down and then go on to the next one. It has got so bad I actually feel sorry for the men doing the work. The road condition has continued to deteriorate and each time they return they fill in the same holes as last time plus new ones.
Has the church over the generations followed a similar practice? Have we kept filling in the potholes with more programmes, with more worship, with fancy screens and praise bands, even Alpha and Billy Graham live links. Have we ever taken the time to look at what is causing the potholes? It is easy to fill in the potholes and for a wee while we do see growth but before long the holes appear again.
It is argued by the Council that it is cheaper to fill in the potholes than repair the road. Yet my road is now verging on unsuitable for vehicles as it is so rutted, unless you have really good suspension.
The Church cannot afford to continue to fill in the potholes. Nobody wants to drive on a road that is full of potholes, and people don’t want to belong to churches that don’t know who or what they are about. Do we need to strip right back to the base of the road and re-lay a smooth road?
The thing is when the council do come to fix my road (apparently in 2013 according to some rumours) they won’t change the route of the road. They will strip the road down to a reasonable level and put in a new road smooth and a joy to drive.
The church is not being asked to become something else or even go in a different direction. But I do believe that we need to strip the church back to its original purpose. Primarily to fulfil the Greatest Commandment and in turn the Great Commission. And in doing so perhaps we will move away from church being a building and church being a way of life.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as you love yourself. And go and make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I (Jesus) have taught you.
The challenge is that we have got so used to filling potholes the church is struggling to break the habit. At Forth St Paul’s we are developing a discipleship model and even in 9 months we are seeing breakthroughs, and the machines are gathering to tear up the road. When the new road is laid we will be so pleased but this in between stage when preparations are happening for the road to be closed and torn up is the most frustrating.
This is a time for prayer and preparation, hope and expectation.
All rather appropriate for Lent.