Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” This passage has a lot to teach us, as individuals, and as a church body.
It’s pretty easy to get weighed down by the struggles we go through, and those things that just don’t seem to go our way. When life gets tough, we get anxious, and even start fearing the worst. It’s natural. We worry that, because things look like they’re going badly, we’ve messed up, or that something is broken, or there’s nothing we can do to fix it, and we get tempted to give up. This happens in our lives, and it happens in the church.
There has been a lot of anxiety lately about the American Church, and about our church. Attendance is lagging. People seem to be leaving the church in droves. There’s constant talk about limited finances and failing programs.
Often times, our anxiety turns to blaming- Why are they leaving? Is it the pastor’s fault? What’s wrong with them? What didn’t they like about us? What do those other churches have that we don’t? When is this culture ever going to change?
I’ve heard these questions asked again and again about our church. And the truth is, these questions have been asked about churches for centuries. We just can’t seem to get a handle on why people don’t like our church, or why they give up on church altogether. Try as we might, we just can’t seem to understand it.
Look at that verse again. “Don’t depend on your own understanding.” Hmm… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…Seek His will…He will show you which path to take.”
In the midst of anxiety and worry about whether or not the church is doomed, we should instead be seeking God. It’s true, people have left our church for various reasons. It’s true that our pews aren’t as full as they once were. It’s true, our finances aren’t as pretty as we’d like them to be.
But it’s also true that new people are coming to our church; that our Kid’s and Youth ministries are thriving; that we are running out of room because so many groups are using our facilities for different programs; that we are changing people’s lives. And it’s true that, as a church, we are growing deeper in our relationship with God and with one another.
Trust in the Lord…don’t trust your own understanding. CUMC is seeking to be faithful to God. We are trying to grow as disciples. We are longing to live into God’s calling for us. When we trust God, not what we see or what we fear, then we are doing exactly what we need to be doing as a church and as God’s people.
The anxiety is natural. The worry is understandable. But don’t let it confuse you, and don’t let it shake your trust in God. God has amazing plans for our church. God is doing wonderful things in and through our church. When you hear people worrying and questioning, reassure them that God is in charge. When you start to wonder, remember that God has great plans for us! Let us trust God, and seek to go wherever He leads us!
In Christ’s Name,
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.