“Slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.” II Kings 4:24
In a recent blog post, I was attempting to get back to ideas for children’s ministry. I had received a text from one of my nieces Constance asking for ideas for her young teenage daughter who was doing a children’s service totally by herself that was lasting two hours every week. I was so pumped and inspired to try to help someone who is down in the trenches. I immediately wanted to start a whole series of posts full of ideas to help people brainstorm. I asked the children’s ministry subscribers what kind of topics they would like to see discussed.
I thought that their answers would help me to know the areas for future children’s ministry posts. Was it object lesson ideas, songs, or what? The only response I received was from Melinda Heyer. When I read what she wanted future posts on, I just stared!
“Loving with a pure love. Getting people to come back to church. Standing up for our unpopular beliefs.”
Loving when it wasn’t easy? How to get people back in church when they had dropped out? I didn’t know what to say. Those were topics that I don’t have in a folder somewhere.
But I have thought about this since Melinda commented in August, and it has come to me…the Spirit! No, I don’t have those answers. I too am one of the ones wondering if there’s something I can do as I see people dropping out of church.
We have worked with the neighbor children for years. First of all, it took years…and I do mean YEARS, to build relationships in our neighborhood. Some of the people we have known over 20 years and have just recently gotten to a point where they trust us.
We have invited, made a special point to talk to those around us, brought children to church, and yet, it seems that we have little to show for it. The children who came (that my husband faithfully went across the street to get Sunday after Sunday) no longer come.
There comes a point where children of unchurched families will drop out. Some time ago, I noticed that we lose influence on these children younger and younger. With so much media competition and young children having phones, it has been extremely difficult for us to tempt children whose parents don’t go to church to come for a children’s service, vacation Bible school, or Christmas program. We are losing them so young!
But it’s not just the children. We have invested a lot in the adults in our neighborhood. Many of them have told us of their problems. They know they need something more. But right now, they are not wanting to give up all to follow Christ.
Last week, as I was driving home, one of my neighbor’s sisters flagged me down. Walking down the street, clutching her little girl’s hand, she told me that she didn’t mean to bother me, but could they please get a ride.
No, she didn’t want to go to her sister’s. She had noticed the two police cars with flashing lights in front of her sister’s house. She is constantly on the lookout for police. I am not. I find that a certain percentage of people in my neighborhood, even if THEY are the ones being abused, will not open the door to the police. Either their memories are bad associated with previous run-ins, or they know that they are not currently in compliance with the law themselves!
I took the sister to the house she requested. It was starting to rain. She didn’t know if she could get in and wanted to use my phone before I left. I was leaving her on someone’s porch with her little girl in the rain. Without a phone. Without keys to get in this house.
I came back to my block and wanted to check on my neighbor. The police said I was welcome to go in and talk to her. She and someone on the phone were trying to figure out if a food stamp card had been left in the car by the police. I said I was willing to check, but when I got close to the car (parked on the street in front of MY garage), the police came alive. They told me absolutely not! I was not allowed to search the car or get in it. Then they softened and told me that if I peeked in the window, I would see why no one could touch it. There on the seat were full syringes. They were guarding the car, waiting for the sheriff to come confiscate it all.
My son told me later that while I was gone, he had watched an arrest out our window of the guy that we know as “the tattoo artist.” He and his wife have been in and out of the neighborhood for months.
Now he was in jail, and the police said that they were waiting for Krista, his wife. (I guess the car is in her name.) My neighbor yelled out to the police, “She’s dead!” And I knew it was true because I had heard the neighborhood gossip a couple weeks earlier also.
“Yes,” I verified, “she died.” Supposedly, she was a morphine addict, and her organs shut down. Maybe it was morphine. Maybe it was meth. All I know is that another one of the people hanging out in my neighborhood is gone.
Later that day, I was still thinking about seeing my neighbor’s sister. I told God, “I needed to see this! I need to realize in my ivory tower what is going on around me in the way others are living.” I need that picture of that mother holding her little girl’s hand, walking down the street probably from a fight with her boyfriend. Headed to who knows where? It is such an empty, sad life.
That woman knows that she has an empty, sad life, but she has not chosen to come to church or turn to God. My husband prayed with her this month in our home as tears came down her face. But lifestyle and addictions are keeping her and her sister where they are.
As I look around at these people that my family have grown to love…some with decent jobs, the Hispanic Catholics who don’t actually go to church at all, the drug addicts, the working man who is also constantly drunk, and even the ones who are trying to live industrious middle-class lives in my neighborhood…They all need Jesus!
They all need the Spirit! So, maybe Melinda had it correct. Yes, I have several object lessons that have proven to be winners down through the years that I could share in a future post. I have some things that I have done that seemed to get across ideas. And these would be so much easier to write about:
“Three Things to Do to Hold Children’s Attention”
“Four Easy Object Lessons to Do if You Are in a Hurry”
“Five Things to Do when Telling a Story”
Maybe I could come up with those posts.
But how to love when loving does not make sense? How to live holiness when it is not popular? How to get people to come back to church when your heart is sad as they stopped coming? Those things are so much harder than anything I may have in one of my totes, folders, or computer files.
The answer is the breath of the Spirit! Then again, that was the answer all along! My efforts are vain. Like Bro. Jerald Glick wrote, “The glory of the Lord is what attracted me to seek God for the blessing that would bring me victory.”
Lord, it’s YOU that draws them. We can invite, we can plan, we can prepare, but it’s You Who breathes life!
The woman in II Kings 4 rode her donkey as fast and hard as she could for the prophet who could save her son’s life. When they asked her how she was, she said, “It is well.” Because she was trusting in the breath of life and the prophet. She was desperate for that breath. If she got it, all WAS well, and if she didn’t, nothing mattered! She would have her son’s body, but it would be a dead form!
We are desperate for that breath! We can have more programs and more plans, but we need that breath.
With all our self-help books, degrees, and programs, I don’t want us to lose our heritage of emphasis on miracles and deliverance.
I’ve been looking around at an older generation of those I love who are in their twilight years. I’ve got to step up to the plate. My pastor says that he never was good up to bat as a boy, but that he has asked God for one more chance to spiritually bat.
He doesn’t even know what “not good” is. As a young person, I didn’t know how to even swing! But I have to learn because I have to touch God. We have to see that breath of life in our services. Yes, Melinda, that is the answer!
“And she said, It shall be well. II Kings 4:23”