Illness & Motivation

Sickness has struck our (new) home.  The wife and kids have had the worst of it – at least thus far.  I’ve been coasting by, comparatively, with the equivalent of an annoying head cold.  The kids surface, seem to be better, and then are dragged back under again.  It has been frustrating to say the least.  Not nearly the struggles that others are called to deal with, but still, frustrating.  

As such, motivation has been low.
As well, on Friday I reported for jury duty and, barring a hail-Mary-esque miracle tomorrow afternoon, am going to be serving on a jury for the next three weeks.  Wheee!  
As I tell anyone who brings up the topic of jury duty, I’m glad to do it and they should be, too.  It’s one of the relatively few obligations for being a citizen in our country.  This does not mean that it is pleasant, easy, or convenient.  It just means that I think we need to do our best to accommodate the summons when it arrives.
This is the first jury summons I’ve had in over 20 years.  It was mostly with curiosity that I reported to the courthouse and, after about an hour or so, was actually seated as Juror 12 out of 18.  The people who requested deferments from serving on this jury all seemed to have very legitimate issues – teachers at various schools and universities in the area, students at those same universities, small business owners.  Three weeks is a big chunk of time.  While I have no shortage of things to do each week, I can defer enough of them though that I didn’t feel I could justify asking for a deferment.  
As such, I’ll direct you to this very short posthumous blog post from a well-known (relatively) Internet theologian.  His point is one that I’ve come to rather surprisingly in the past decade or so.  Though my denomination is often accused of being very lackluster in the personal evangelism department, there is still enough collective guilt absorbed from our evangelical brethren (and perhaps from pastors and other congregational leaders looking for ways to get members more involved at church?) to foster a never-ending stream of programs and materials aimed at more effective outreach.
I’ve had more than one parishioner over the years suggest that I need to spearhead and outreach program.  My response has varied little.  Firstly, show me in the Bible where such approaches are even described, let alone prescribed.  Secondly, show me a program that has consistently produced anywhere near the results it promises.  Frankly, if the secret to growing our congregations was evangelism programs, there ought to be a glut of mega-churches throughout our country.  Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of writers, speakers, and program designers, these programs haven’t resulted in membership explosions.  
This doesn’t mean that we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief (I know more pastors than not who dread outreach programs and personal evangelism efforts every bit as much as all of you).  Rather, it points us to the very boring, very tedious, very difficult work of living lives renewed by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  It challenges us to take far more seriously famous passages such as Acts 2:42-47.  In other words, we aren’t to be about faking being loving and kind and concerned for others as part of an effort to get them to come to church to us.  We are to genuinely demonstrate lives of love and kindness and concern, and trust that God the Holy Spirit who is already hard at work in the hearts and minds of those around us will utilize this to bring those people to our communities of faith.
If you’re gifted with the gift of evangelism, you darn well better be putting it to use!  Paul certainly did.  But Paul never assumed that everyone else was supposed to do exactly what he was doing.  There is no guilt from Paul in this respect.  He’ll use guilt in other ways and for other purposes, (the very short book of Philemon is a great example of this!) but never to make people feel somehow inferior or un-Christian for not taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, or even the ends of their villages.  
It probably wouldn’t have surprised Paul that few people were motivated to evangelism the way he was.  Maybe it’s time for us to stop feeling guilty about what we aren’t doing, and focus more on the much harder work of being the people we are called to be as followers of Christ.  
I think I’m feeling sicker already.

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