I live in an old neighborhood. Old houses and really old trees that have lots of leaves. Each fall they look beautiful but then they start to hit the ground. In a lot of Oregon we don’t get much snow, but we make up for it with leaves that cover the ground like snow. It’s always easy to tell who cares about keeping up the neighborhood because they’re outside raking leaves once or twice a week, and barely keeping up.
But then there’s the other neighbors who let the leaves sit and then slowly turn brown and mushy, waiting for a big winter rain storm to wash them down the street drain.
Here’s the honest truth: everyone wants to move into a neighborhood that has a huge, beautiful trees in the front yard and throughout the neighborhood, but nobody wants to rake the leaves.
I hate raking leaves. It takes forever and two days after raking I realize it looks like I never spent hours raking. Raking leaves is thankless, not-so-sexy work. It goes unnoticed until you have a pile of rotting leaves that look nasty.
The same goes for the church. Everyone wants a growing, thriving church, but no one wants to sacrifice their agenda, their preferences, their lives, in order to get one. We want the benefits of a thriving church, but we don’t want to get our hands dirty in the process.
I get asked by pastors quite often: “What do we need to do to reach younger people?” You could replace that same question regarding reaching any group of people. I always say one and only one thing: Get your hands dirty. Care about them. Reach out to them. Not in a “we want you to come to our church” sort of way. But in a way “we care that you get to know the Jesus that changed our lives” sort of way.
Every city has a group of people who jump around to a new church every 3 years when the current one gets stale. They look for the new flavor of the week. They want to know what new church other people are talking about. They want to be apart of the new thing. But they don’t want to do the work it took for a church to start making a difference.
I think the calling Jesus has given us is quite simple. We want trees but we don’t want to rake leaves. And Jesus instead says to us, unless you first rake the leaves, you’ll never have thriving trees.