I missed a week writing here. We were traveling, first to a graduation celebration and then a pleasant drive home, golfing a little, driving a little, finding a place to sleep and repeating the routine until we were home. Once again, it was about the process of discovery along the way. We struggled through some stretches where we felt like we just wanted to pull over and sleep – others where we just wanted to pull over and gaze at the beauty – and still others where we could hardly stop talking about what we had seen or done. When we arrived home we were refreshed, relaxed and ready to return to the congregations whom we serve.
One of the golf courses we tried was in an area that had been experiencing some rather severe drought. The ground was as hard as asphalt pavement and the grass sparse. When the ball was hit it would just keep going forever bouncing merrily along and when it finally had no more bounce left in it, it rolled unimpeded through any stand of grass.
The next golf course was almost the opposite. The grass so thick and the ground so soft from days and days of rain that each time we whacked the ball down the fairway it would disappear, sometimes sunk into the mud, sometimes hidden in the thick grass.
The third golf course we tried the grass was green but not so thick as to impede the ball. The fairways firm, the greens comfortable and the sand traps dry; it was just right.
(Any familiarity to Goldilocks is purely coincidental)
When we got back home we had the privilege of entertaining some guests at home for a few days, friends with whom Peggy and I have been in relationship for nearly twenty years, separately at first and jointly for the fifteen years we have been married. While they were here they talked some about their church, about some of the relationship problems, members leaving, dwindling resources, the need to dip into endowment reserves to support the church, and complaints about too many messy youth hanging around, as well as the thoughts on behalf of some that if the key component (minister) was removed and replaced everything would be fine.
Churches are not like cars. If the car engine is broken or damaged or not running on all cylinders; you can remove it, fix it, or tune it up and it will run right again. Church components on the other hand are not usually quite so easy to remove and repair. Only in extremely rare situations does it really help.
Churches are maybe more like golf courses. At some the terrain is rough and hard and a person (minister or member) can get really bounced around a lot. At others one can find oneself mired in the mud, lost in the tall grass, or yes even drowning in the hazards that lie in wait. On a golf course a person has to feel the course, become familiar with the terrain, know their own limitations and be ready for surprises. Remember some of them are far more welcoming and forgiving than others.