Making a 10,000-Year Difference
As summer was wrapping up and churches were ramping up for fall, I heard a couple of sermons challenging the church to make a difference in their communities. The question that often arises is, “If our church were to close tomorrow, would our community even miss us?”
I think that is a fair question for the preacher and leadership to consider, but I think that is actually part B of the question. Before you answer part B, you have to consider part A, which I think is the more foundational question: “If you and your family were to move, would your neighbors miss you?”
Would the greeter at COSTCO, the barista (for those of you who are older—that is the person who hands you your coffee) at your Tuesday morning coffee gathering, the cashier at QT, the attendant at Jiffy Lube, the checker at your grocery store, your garbage man, and, oh yeah, your neighbor you have lived next door to for the past 7 years, even miss you?
Are we being intentional and relational in our every day “as you go” (just a friendly reminder of the literal translation of Matthew 28:19) encounters?
In one of my favorite books (translation: it is easy to read, filled with humor, and it will preach), Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, author Brant Hansen shares that those who “like” a cause on Facebook are far less likely to actually participate in that cause. Too often we convince ourselves it is enough to contribute to the year-end offering for missions, even while neglecting to identify and minister to someone in our circle of influence.
“Too often we convince ourselves it is enough to contribute to the year-end offering for missions, even while neglecting to identify and minister to someone in our circle of influence.”
The single mom with three young children. The elderly man living on a fixed income. They are either sitting in the row with you at church, or they live in your neighborhood. And if you still can’t think of anyone, stop going to Starbucks for a month, and get your coffee at McDonald’s. You will meet both of the above-mentioned people. Do you know them well enough to identify their needs and walk alongside them during this season of their lives?
My wife Suzie and I are good friends with Roger and Charlie Curry. Roger is a dentist who continues to practice, well past retirement age, with the purpose of giving money to missions. In addition to working 70 hours a week, he and his wife lead a Bible study at a local nursing home every Sunday, fill their SUV each week with bread from Rotella Bakery for a church that serves the homeless, and make numerous stops to help individuals. One lady and her family have been ministered to by Roger and Charlie for over three decades. (For those of us who are poor at math, that is over 30 years.) Unfortunately, my mode of operation too often is, after three months, I get bored, take my ball, and go home. Three decades?
If the church that Roger and Charlie attend closed, I think the community would miss it. If the Curry’s were to move, I know they would be missed.
“One lady and her family have been ministered to by Roger and Charlie for over three decades.”
The Bible is clear that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He moves and works through the generations. By contrast, we are living in more of a microwave society. Some of us stand in front of the microwave thinking, “Hurry…hurry…hurry,” waiting for our coffee to reheat. When you’re a true friend (another friendly reminder: Jesus was a friend of sinners), people don’t watch you with one eye on the clock (or calendar for that matter) and the other eye on where you will be in six months. Are you willing to be a friend for the long haul? Through thick and thin?
My brother Dan married his wife Amy almost 50 years ago. Together, they have farmed the same ground for nearly all 50 years of their married life. Recently, two young farmers, one to the east and one to the west, began their adventure of life on the farm. Dan and Amy remember what it was like starting out farming when fuel prices were high and interest rates were climbing. So, they have made their equipment available to these young guys free of charge. My brother has been asked over a dozen times to serve as a pallbearer at a funeral. This is when a family chooses six close friends to be there as they say goodbye to a loved one. If the church that Dan and Amy attend closed, I think the community would miss it. If Dan and Amy were to move, I know they would be missed.
“I know they would be missed.”
Most of us know the song “Amazing Grace.” We sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise-than when we first begun.” If we understand part A of the question, we will live each day making 10,000-year decisions. (That concept will preach. I know, because I stole it from a sermon I heard preached in Grand Junction, CO.)
Jesus is asking us to change the world. He said “as you go” to make disciples. There is definitely a place for large gatherings complete with powerful preaching. Most of us, however, will make a 10,000-year difference one person at a time, living our lives with intentionality and developing relationships that will make a 10,000-year difference. After 10,000 years, we will probably recognize everyone from our circle of influence.
“Most of us will make a 10,000-year difference one person at a time.”
The greeter at COSTCO, the barista at your Tuesday morning coffee gathering, the cashier at QT, the attendant at Jiffy Lube, the checker at your grocery store, your garbage man, and your neighbor will be there. If they know Jesus. If they don’t know Jesus, they will be missed.