I’m so glad it’s not my job to create faith.

Last week we started the next round of Bible Information Class, the usual gateway into membership for our church. I use a program that’s designed to run thirteen sessions, making it long enough to be a commitment but hopefully not so long as to cause a problem. As per usual, I had several people express solid interest.

Tuesday night… three people show. All of them already members.

Sigh. We’ve been through this before, you know. Oddly enough, I didn’t get too down. I asked the three if they’d be willing to skip this week; I’d reapproach those who had expressed interest, and next week we’d try again and if it was just these three, we’d just move forward.

…I’m now scheduled to teach three separate sessions this coming week.

A young woman who wanted to come has family stuff starting right when the class was intended to start. Can I meet at a separate time? First off, I know this young woman’s family – she’s not making an excuse. (Or if she is, it’s an excuse backed up by fact. Her mom does stuff like this.) Well, OK. So I’m meeting separately with her. Oh, and she’s bringing three friends with her now. So instead of one young woman in the evening for the sessions, I’ve got four teens coming in the afternoon. Get the feeling God’s laughing?

One gentleman who’d expressed interest in coming… his work schedule is erratic. He works a manual labor job where you work until you’re done, which means he really can’t commit to anything regularly in the evening. What do you know? He approached me today in church and asked if we could meet in the mornings.

Oh, and three more non-members have approached and asked if it was too late to join the evening sessions.

So, this week we start a triple-whammy of Bible Information Classes. During Lent. Oh, also during a pretty rigorous all-member-visit.

Which means God is blessing me and laughing at me and handing more people saying, “Hey. These are people I’ve chosen. Teach them about Jesus. Teach and baptize and show them what I’ve done for them.” And that always happens in God’s timing – it certainly doesn’t happen in mine!

It also means I’m going to need wisdom in balancing all my responsibilities. Thankfully I’ve got a wife who both understands my duties – both as a pastor and as a husband and father. She’s not above taking out the rolling pin and beaning me across the head if she needs to. And sometimes I need that.

Not everything is sunny and cheery here, of course. We’ve still got one man very angry for me standing on God’s Word. (Oh, and he’s being petulant, too! Joy!) Some people are really resisting the every-member-visit and I’m concerned what the ramifications may be. I suspect I’ll be posting more on that as it develops, but in short the every-member-visit will include some parts on God’s Word being the only guide for life and faith. I have a suspicion that’s going to rub some people the wrong way. (For those who are WELS reading this, our congregation is not using the Synod materials for reasons specific to our congregation.) We recently closed our child care and are once again floundering for identity.

Yet, even in these problems, even in these struggles, God laughs and brings his people to him. He gathers his own, no matter where they are.

And if he uses me to do it? How awesome is that?


Pride: Lesson Not Learned

We like education — yes we do! We like education! How ’bout you?

So, a week ago we started a new Bible Information Class. You may recall that I struggled with this before. I invited a good number of the same people along with new prospects. Lots of invites, though this time around I’d like to think I had more realistic expectations. I prayed. I prayed a lot that God would grab these people and bring them. I want to show people Jesus. I want to be used to grow those who already have faith. This is a good way to do that. So, I invited lots of people.

Who came?

Six people came. One of them is not a member.

So, I feel a bit like a failure. I’m thrilled that the one non-member came. That’s sweet. I’m excited to be teaching her. However, I feel a bit like a failure.

(It’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me I’ll get this right eventually)

But… of the other five who came, three are church council members. And this… this is a win. We have been talking in council for months that if the church council doesn’t take the lead in growing in Christ, why would anyone be interested in learning more about Jesus? We’ve been talking for a long time about the council demonstrating their growth so others can be encouraged by it. I saw little evidence that God’s Word was working in their hearts to make them want to grow in Christ.

And now three in BIC, to demonstrate their desire to grow in Christ?

This is sweet! This is a win! We can do this! God may not be growing our church numerically at the moment… but it sure looks like he’s growing us in maturity!

It’s not about me.

Last week I had a major struggle. We had the first session of our new BIC. I invited a good number of people, including many lapsed members. I wanted to give them an “easy-in” to get back to church — no pressure, not Sunday morning, nice and simple.

We had nine people attend the first session! …and every single one of them were either members in good standing of our church or sister congregations.

It’s not on me. I’ve made the invitations. I’m not the one responsible for converting anyone. I know that in my head. I know it in my heart when something good happens, it’s not my doing. Those five adult confirmands we had about a month ago? So not my doing! I’m not an evangelist! That was all God.

But for some reason I shouldered the burden of the failure. I felt the weight of having not a single lapsed member or prospect come.

And that is so stupid. It’s sinful pride. It’s saying that it’s my responsibility to get them there. It’s saying that it’s my job to resurrect dying hearts or bring life to dead ones.

Still, I couldn’t sleep that night. It kept going through my head: what could I do different? And yes, it is good to learn from this and perhaps try a different tactic in invitations. Some of those I invited I had not spent time with — if they don’t know I care, why would they care what I know? Perhaps that’s the biggest take-away from no one coming for me: I hadn’t put the time in.

But bigger still: I have too much pride. I tried to do God’s job. I felt guilty because no one came… and again, it’s not my job to get people to come. It’s my job to invite. It’s my job to say “come and see!” I had done that. Yes, I could do that better, and I will. But it’s not my job to make people believe.

That’s God’s job.

So I repented that night. Oh, and the next day. And the day after that. Stupid sin just kept clinging. Get away from me, sin! Get away and stay away!

You want to know what’s cool, though? God forgives. And he doesn’t forgive because I repent. He just plain ol’ forgives. He bought me with his own blood, and he delights in taking my guilt away. I have nothing to worry about.

So let’s hope my heart learned its lesson. I’m not God. I need to let him do his job!

“I know Sundays are hard for you…”

Tomorrow we start my second round of BIC. BIC stands for Bible Information Class. It’s basically adult confirmation class. Through the classes, we teach the basics of Scripture using the outline of Luther’s Small Catechism. The first time I taught BIC here, God used it to bring five adults to be confirmed. It was a blast!

But… some things are going to be different this time around. For one, I’ve avoided the words “class” or “study.” Instead, I’m describing it as “thirteen sessions where we get to talk about God.” I’ve found that the word “class” in particular can cause some bad associations. I want to stress the discussion aspects. By using the generic term “God” we also get rid of some of the offensiveness in the invitation itself. I’ll save the offense of the Gospel and who Jesus is for our time together.

This is just basic publicity, though. It’s advertising certain aspects of the BIC to maximize interest in the intended audience: those who don’t know Christ.

I’ve done something very different in targeting people to invite, though. Yes, I’ve made a point of inviting those who are not church members. I’ve worked with church members who have friends that are unchurched. Together we’ve invited as many as we could. But I’ve also targeted a third group: The dechurched.  (more…)