Sunsets and hall cupboards
Every church I know has a cupboard, usually in the hall, that stores all the items left over from past events that may someday be of value, but at the moment have no immediate use. So the costumes and props from the Christmas show, small items of furniture and kids toys and communion vessels get stored. The past usefulness and possible future benefit is why they get stored rather than thrown out.
The consequences of keeping things in the hall cupboard are just clutter and loss of storage space, but we also do the same with ministries - and the consequences of not cleaning up after them are greater.
There are some things that we do as church, and we must always do as church. We must always gather to hear God speak in His Word, we must gather to proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes again, we must meet in large and small groupings to encourage each other and stir one another to love and good deeds. These are some of the things we must never lose sight of and continue to do all the more.
But there are other activities we engage in that are good an appropriate for the time, but actually have a shelf life, or a use by date. These projects either promote our crucial day by day engagement with Jesus and His people in His world, or meet a particular present need. But they do not go on forever. Examples are training courses for particular events that are coming up, financial support for a crisis somewhere in the world, a specific mission activity or building need, or gatherings for specific groupings of people. These projects are good and important but there is a danger in having them continue forever. They need to be separated from our ongoing Christian lives together.
The danger of projects
There are dangers in not distinguishing between projects and ongoing life together.
One is that the pastor can get distracted from concentrating on growing us through God’s declared ongoing means into exciting short term activities. We need to ensure that projects are enacted by congregation members who can fulfil the task.
Secondly, projects need to have an end date. If they do not life gets cluttered with things that continue because they always have and we have no resources for new activities, or energy for the long term things we should be focusing upon.
Thirdly, not having a completion date means that we are in danger of not being accountable for how the project went and for assessing whether it was a good and effective use of resources. It also means that we do not have the chance to celebrate the gospel success of the project.
Finally, we can run around being busy doing things, but not having our souls fed, nor people introduced to the Lord.
Sunset on projects
Projects are great. They focus our attention on a specific task that calls for action, and helps us engage wholeheartedly for Jesus. But they need to have a sunset – a date when they will terminate.
Termination then frees up resources for the next project. It enables congregation members to focus on our lives together and glorifying our savior, and perhaps one other project.
Life is too complex to have a hall cupboard full of projects.
Image: Nick McPhee