I’ve been spending some time in prayer and reflection this week. One of my conclusions is that in church life we can all too easily bounce between competing emphases. In part of this is because we are tyrannized by the question, ‘Are we doing enough …?’ This is always the wrong question to ask.
Let me explain what I mean.
‘Are you doing enough evangelism?’ It’s a very difficult question to answer in the affirmative. Who is going to say, ‘Yes, in fact we’re probably doing too much evangelism’? What about, ‘Are you doing enough praying?’ Or social involvement? Or training? Or pastoral care? Or Bible learning? Or world mission?
I recently gave a gospel community 40 statements and asked them to put a tick by those statements that are clearly true of their community and a cross by those statements that are clearly false. Three-quarters put a cross by the statement, ‘We are actively and generously involved in world mission.’ Now I know that most of this community have been on mission trips in the last two or three years and they are involved in sending and supporting two missionary couples and one single young man in three unevangelized areas, in two of which Christians are regularly persecuted. There is regular news backwards and forwards, and they often pray for these people. So I began to wonder what level of ‘active and generous involvement in world mission’ would have been sufficient for them all the tick this statement. The point is that whatever the answer, it would have been a level that made it very difficult for this small group to tick any of the other statements! Whatever level of involvement in world mission they would have consider adequate would not allow them to sustain an equally adequate involvement in prayer, evangelism, social involvement, training and so on. They were setting themselves impossible targets.
The result is, I think, and I see this in my own ministry, that we bounce between competing emphases in church life. We decide we are not doing enough prayer. After all who is going to say they are doing enough prayer? So we start some new prayer meetings and get everyone praying in small groups. Three months later we feel we are not doing enough evangelism. So we increase our evangelistic activity. Three months later we wonder if everyone is really being fed so we start some Bible study groups. As a result of all this new evangelism and Bible study the prayer meetings have suffered. So three months later we all feel like we don’t do enough praying and the cycle starts all over again.
Perhaps is this okay. Perhaps this is the natural way in which churches calibrate themselves to a proper balance.
But I also wonder whether we need to recognize we are finite. We can’t do everything ‘Are we doing enough …?’ is the wrong question to ask. Perhaps some Christians are lazy, perhaps some church’s lack ambition. I suspect more often the opposite is the case. We need to learn to celebrate what we are doing and ensure we do it well.
I’m also thinking of encouraging my congregation to ask God to guide them by his Spirit each day. ‘How would you have me serve you today, Lord?’ Maybe if we learn to follow the Spirit’s leading, God will sort out the right balance and enough will be enough.