Have you noticed that everything in the Church is “green” these days?
Green is the color of growth and vitality. Many plants signal the arrival of warmer weather in the Spring by displaying new green leaves. The green leaves on plants absorb the summer sunlight, and transform it into much-needed energy through the miracle of photosynthesis. I’ve noticed that we are in the “Season of Growth” because I need to mow the grass every week and stay ahead of the weeds. Green is the color of growth and vitality – and that’s why many Christians use green coverings on the altar and why many pastors wear green stoles around their necks during the season of Pentecost.
Most churches are craving new growth and vitality these days. People in the Church can’t help but notice that worship attendance has been falling and that financial resources are tight. Many churches are aging as young people drift away – sometimes because they’ve decided to move to new and exciting places, and sometimes because they simply can’t “connect” with what the Church is doing. It’s hard to find volunteers. It’s hard to find the energy that’s needed to remain on the front lines of ministry. And this growing reality in the Church can create a mentality of scarcity. We focus more upon what we don’t have than upon what we do have. We spend our time thinking about things we’re not doing instead of reflecting upon the ways that God is using us to accomplish His purposes. A mentality of scarcity always tells us we don’t have enough. And, when we get overcome by that type of thinking, we get discouraged and do even less.
But one of the great promises of Holy Scripture is one that tells us that “the harvest is plentiful.” (Matthew 9:37) People may not be attending worship services as often as they did in the past, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t thinking about their relationship with God. We may need to learn how to tell the story of our ministry in new and creative ways, so that people can see that our ministry is vital and important. People who are not affiliated with our congregations aren’t likely to simply walk through the unlocked doors of our churches on Sunday mornings to see what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not visiting our church websites during the week. Thoughts of scarcity cause us to withdraw into a death-creating and congregation-killing discouragement, but thoughts of abundance can create excitement and new growth in our churches.
So, how does vibrant and life-giving ministry unfold in this green Season of growth and abundance? It begins when people see the difference between what they see and what they believe God wants. Do you think that our God doesn’t care when a third of the little children in a community go to school without breakfast and when their school-provided breakfast disappears during the summer? Do you think that God doesn’t care about the ninety-one people who die from opioid overdoses in our country every day – some in our own church communities? Does God not care about the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day in America? Has God abandoned children who are being bullied? Has our God walked away from older people in our communities who are lonely because they’re not able to leave their homes? Does God abandon people in the midst of their grief? Does God turn away from people who experience abuse in their home, who are recovering from addictions, who are facing a life-altering illness or disease, who are struggling with a mental illness, or who have lost their job? I don’t think so….
In this “green” season of the Church year, we’re asked to reflect upon what excites us and upon what creates passion in our lives. God made us to be people who change the world! God made us and draws us together in the communities that we call “churches,” so that we can work together; draw on the excitement and energy other people; and go into the world, filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, to bring the Reign of God into our struggling world. That’s what ministry is. That’s what creates new growth and vitality.
And so, during this “green” season of the Church year, I want to challenge you to dream the dreams that God has for the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century. The harvest is plentiful. God has told us that He’ll lead and guide us as we pray and worship. The Holy Spirit will direct our work and open doors that need to be opened. And all we need to do is “ask the Lord of the harvest to send-out laborers” (Matthew 9:38) who are passionate about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in a struggling world where many people are crippled by the types of “scarcity mentality” that steal energy, vitality, and a life-filled future from the hands of God’s people.