In the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ Kevin Costner’s character Ray hears a voice that tells him “If you build it he will come.” At the time Ray does not have any real clarity as to who the “he” is or what will really happen, but he steps up to go against the flow of popular opinion to build a baseball field where corn once was harvested. And we all know that his actions turned the movie character’s life around, and in fact since the movie was produced thousands of people have travelled to Iowa to see that simple baseball diamond.
This afternoon, I looked out on the church parking lot, glancing further into the recently plowed farm field that our neighbor maintains. I wondered … ‘How do we get people to come?’ Firmly sitting on its foundations for more than 100 years is St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. It has served as a place where babies have been baptized, couples wed, celebrations of passing lives held, and where people have been saved for Jesus Christ. If the founders had not invited anyone new … the church would have fallen into disrepair and succumbed to the dying church syndrome. But people sensed God’s call to make disciples and stepped up to invite friends, neighbors, and family members.
We enter the summer months at an important crossroads. The number 125 is grabbing at me because I truly believe that there are at least ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY FIVE children desperately in need of Jesus Christ right here in our community. ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY FIVE children who can end their summer and start their school year singing songs of faith while laughing and being happy in a church setting.
Paul wrote these words to the church in Colossae:
“So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received Him. Be rooted and built up in Him, be established in faith and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught.”
Those two verses pack so much and should challenge each of us in many ways. Are we living in Jesus just the way we were on the day our lives were transformed by realizing God’s grace through Christ? Are we overflowing with thanksgiving in God and Christ each day? But the last words haunt me as I see dwindling numbers of youth at churches across our community… If children are not coming to Vacation Bible School and not coming to Sunday School and not coming to church, how in the world will they be able to “be established in faith and overflowing with thanksgiving?” They will never have been taught.
So the responsibility, my friends, is not the other guy’s. It isn’t the responsibility of the couple in the pew behind you on Sunday. It is your responsibility to think about who you ARE GOING TO INVITE (not might invite but actually WILL INVITE) to our Vacation Bible School. You see, I believe we can get 125 children here during the last week in August, because I know we need to do that for the sake of the future of the church of Christ and this church as well. If young people do not start experiencing God, Christ, and faith, that empty parking lot will be a reality on Sunday mornings in the not too distant future.
So whether you are young or old, married or single, regardless of how long you have been at St. Paul’s… You have a responsibility—not for our church but for God—to go into the world you dwell in and make disciples for Jesus Christ. The youngest ones are ready to discover God… to receive Christ Jesus so that they then can live in Him. Be encouraged, be bold in your faith, and be inspired to ask people to come to our fields. They have already been built by those who preceded us here.
A special thank you to all of our volunteers who will be teaching, leading, and providing a lifelong experience for the children who will walk through our church doors this summer!