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April 8, 2018, 1:52 PM

Don't Send Me Black Balloons

It’s a milestone birthday for me – 40!  But don’t send any black balloons.  My future is bright.

If you count the anniversary of my birth by the date on the calendar, my birthday was a few days ago (as I write) on April 2.  If you count it by the Sunday in the Church year, it is today, the Second Sunday of Easter.  Forty years ago, on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 2, 1978, a group of people gathered together in a house and held a church service.  As they read the Word of God, I was born. 

Soon they would name me “Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church.”

I struggled to survive from the very beginning.  My founding members worked and gave and taught and loved and corrected and welcomed—they did more than support the mission, they were the mission of God in action. 

But what a challenge lay before them! 
No building,
no land,
very few people,
an elderly pastor who would only be able to serve them for a few months,
and the teaching of God that is unpopular, though it grants life to those who believe. 

In the “consumer society” (yes, already back then and even more so now), how do you attract new members, and young families with children, and mature stewards, and people willing to work at the daunting task of nursing a baby church? 

You don’t.  You don’t attract them. 
Rather, you make an every Sunday and every day habit of
speaking the truth of God
and loving people with His own love
and you see which lives you will touch. 

That’s what my people did, and God blessed me richly. 

I survived my early years by the grace and strength of God.  Don’t send me any black balloons.  My future is bright.  Now I have a sanctuary, a Family Life Center, classrooms and offices, and I sit on acres of land.  I have hundreds of families.  God is good! 

But this, however, leads to an opposite problem.  Now I attract people. 
And people attracted to a building and land,
or to a program or ministry,
or to one particular worker,
or to the music,
or to any piece or part of me
are only casually connected

They easily come, and they easily go.  And that’s not good enough. 

I want each of them to know Jesus personally. 
I want them to hear the fullness of the truth of His Word. 
I want them to be able to experience the tenacious love of the other members who are here. 
I want them to know the joy of serving along with my people. 

How do I make that happen?  There’s no easy solution.  So, I must do the hard work that I did in the beginning: my people must make an every Sunday and every day habit of
speaking the truth of God
and loving people with His own love
and then see which lives will be touched.

I am, after all, only this: a body of baptized people (sinners) who are called, gathered, and enlightened by God through his Gospel.  His Spirit is at work in my people, moving them to hear the Word of God together, to receive the Lord’s Supper together, to serve together, witness together, weep together, rejoice and sing together.  And when other people don’t see the beauty and fullness of it, I genuinely feel sorry for them. 

And when some people only choose to come to worship once in a while,
or use their Bibles only in emergencies,
or are unwilling to accept right teaching;
when their funds are spent on sports and there’s nothing left for the Lord,
or when they have no time to join my people in serving their neighbors;
when they leave to worship something that is not Christ,
or when they leave and worship nothing at all;
when their priorities are seriously messed up, I pray for them. 
I strive to reach them. 
I worry for them.

But I don’t worry about me.  Don’t send me black balloons.  My future is bright.  For God’s Word is taught in me, and that Word is living and active. 
I rejoice at every baptism,
every confirmation,
every addition to the family. 
And I have people here who are shining stars in this dark world. 

You see, I am made up of people who are filled with the Spirit of God
and they work their fingers to the bone,
they wear out the knees of their pants in prayer,
they dig in their heels and will not yield one inch of doctrine,
and yet they love with their hearts wide open. 

Where there is tragedy, my people rush in to help. 
Where there is gladness, my people are quick also to rejoice. 
They sit in the hospital room with the sick. 
They bring food (lots of food!) to help the hungry. 
They show up every Sunday to greet one another with a hug or handshake,
they sing loud praises to the Lamb,
and teach the children about Jesus and walking in His way. 

They are born, they live, they die;
workers come and go but the Spirit remains;
I am ever changing, for I am an organism, not an organization,
and yet somehow staying the same.
Made up of people. 
The best people. 
People who refuse to become complacent. 
People who refuse to quit. 
People who love Jesus. 
People who do more than support the mission, for they are the mission of God in action. 

Will I be around until Christ returns?
Will I continue to grow?
Will I reproduce a daughter church?
What is in store in my future?  I don’t know.  I do know there will be struggles.  Strife within.  Struggles without.  Pressures, even attacks.

But I also know this:
God’s promises are true.
So even in these dark days the gates of Hell will not overcome me.
I am founded on Christ, the rock of salvation.

Don’t send me black balloons.  My future is bright.

- Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church


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