Friday, December 9, 2016
Annual Reports Are Worse Than Book Sales
You’ve heard of fake news.
Whenever I read an annual report, especially ecclesiastical ones, that’s what comes to mind.
Either someone is bragging and taking credit for what others did or making excuses for what went wrong or longing for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
Church annual reports can be really misleading:
=See how great we are!
=We’re so much better than other churches in town!
=We’d be a lot better if it weren’t for our demographics or the economy!
=We’d really grow if we moved!
=We’d really be a lot better if it weren’t for our pastor!
BTW, and I may be wrong, my surveys over the years indicate church annual reports are about as popular as my books; and considering my book sales are running about a trillion to one behind that toothy guy with the greased hairdo in Texas which tempts me to overdose on St. John’s Wort, churches could save some forests by recognizing the very few who read ‘em are just looking for something to brag about or someone to blame.
So as I think about writing another one not to sum up my estimation of life and ministry on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois, I can’t get two people out of my mind.
First, and less important, was the Pittsburgh businessman who encouraged me after a bad year, “Always look to the future rather than your behind.”
Second, and more important, Paul wrote, “I am focusing all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.”
Really makes sense which it should because God inspired Paul to write that down.
Regardless, I’ve got to write another one because, well, uh, I’m supposed to write one and everybody doesn’t know how I always do what I’m supposed to do because I’m such a conventional guy.
I’m just your typical pastor.
Please laugh because I couldn’t bear the thought of being just like…
I read where Oliver Wendell Holmes deadpanned, with apologies to my buddies in the business, “I would have become a preacher if so many of them didn’t look like undertakers.”
Be that as it may be, I’ve decided to write a perennial report this year so I can recycle it whenever I don’t want to write an annual one.
Or something like that.
Probably influenced by the time of the year when annual reports are, uh, uh, uh, imagined or, uh, uh, uh, reimagined, I’ve been thinking about Simeon as a metaphor for what churches should always be reporting about their life and ministry.
Simeon, as you recall, was a really religious guy: “righteous and devout.”
He wanted to be right with God and didn’t miss any opportunity to get tighter with Him through worship, Bible study, hanging out with other believers, and the like.
Luke said he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.”
That means he was waiting for the Messiah or the anointed/appointed One to bring salvation to God’s people.
Luke went on to say God’s Holy Spirit guided him to the Temple where Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to do what they were supposed to do for Him according to tradition.
They were very traditional about their religion; and so they circumcised the baby because God’s deal with Abraham was boys had to be marked off like that eight days after birth to show they belonged to God kinda like we do in baptism and then mom went through some kinda ritual cleansing in the Temple that I’ve never really understood just like a lot of the other religiously traditional mumbo-jumbo and motions that seem so meaningless and only coincidental to Biblical fidelity.
Less or more or nevertheless, that’s where they crossed paths with the old guy who moved from a religion about God to a relationship with Him by grace through faith in Jesus and exclaimed as soon as he saw and embraced Him, “Now I can die! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! I have seen Your salvation!”
Once Jesus was seen and grasped in his head, heart, and gut, Simeon lost the fear of death and most certainly began to talk about Jesus and how He will do that for anyone who sees and grasps His saving role in their lives.
That’s what Jesus does for everyone and that’s how everyone responds when they know it/Him.
That’s my perennial report; repeating the good news of existential and eternal salvation by grace through faith in Jesus: living confidently and calmly and triumphantly in the assurance of living forever in His best called paradise after the last breath in time.
Before signing off, let me tell you about Grace Wills.
Grace and I met in a small and struggling church many years ago.
After she got it/Him like Simeon, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut about Jesus, wanted people to get to know Him, and did something about it.
She knew what Jesus meant about not burying treasure and putting light under a bucket and keeping salt in the shaker.
She began to invite people to worship; which remains the best way to get to know Him; or as David sang, “God inhabits the praises of His people.”
Not only that, she picked ‘em up in her old blue and beat up Chevy Citation.
It went like this: “Would you like to come to church with me? Good, I will pick you up on Sunday!”
I am not exaggerating to say Grace was responsible for at least 50 people who became active in that church.
That’s what happens when we see and grasp.
We don’t celebrate and communicate just a few times a year.
It/He changes everything as He changes everybody.
Maybe that’s why I don’t like annual reports.
People who see and grasp keep doing the same thing over and over and over and…
Nothing fake about that/Him.
Blessings and Love!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!