When my husband put up our artificial Christmas tree this year, we discovered many of the pre-installed lights didn't work. We had patches of darkness amid the lights.
Luckily Hoyt and I had a few extra bulbs on hand to start the repair process. After two runs to Wal-Mart to buy more bulbs and several hours spent checking and replacing bulbs, our tree—make that our entire tree—now shines as intended.
Patches of darkness amid the lights. Lighted bulbs next to non-lighted bulbs. Doesn't that sound like a lot of churches you know?
My Christmas tree reminded me of three truths about church life.
1. An absence of light doesn't equal an absence of power.
My tree's problem was the bulbs, not the wiring. Once we dealt with the problem bulbs, we could verify the presence of sufficient electrical power.
In the same way, we can't blame the Holy Spirit for problems in our churches. His power hasn't stopped flowing to the light-holders.
2. Beware of cascading effects.
The bulb-holders on our tree are connected to each other in groups. Each group is wired to a single plug, and bad bulbs impact the whole group's ability to shine. Once a certain number of bulbs in the same group fail—and sometimes they all fail at once, a whole set of branches will not light.
Deal with those problem bulbs one by one, and after a certain number of repairs, you'll find your lynchpin (or lynch-bulb, in this case). The momentum will swing, and the lights will come on again. You'll be able to see the working bulbs shine even before you've dealt with all the non-working bulbs.
Healthy attitudes and spiritual vitality are contagious in churches, especially in small groups. Ditto for apathy and other bad attitudes.
3. The choice to care requires sacrifice.
Yes, it took time to supply fresh bulbs where a bulb on our tree had failed. Yes, my fingertips got sore, my arms got scratched, and my legs got cramps (or went to sleep) during the contortions required to put a bulb with good wires in each needy bulb-holder.
As I see it, Hoyt and I had three alternatives: Fix the problem, settle for patchy light, or throw away an expensive tree.
Cumbersome as the repair process was, I'm glad Hoyt and I opted to deal with the problems on our tree. I feel the same way about problems at my church.
Tuesday – December 16, 2014