Every month, one of our pastors writes an article for the congregation as part of our newsletter entitled The Advance. Below is the article from March 2014:
From the Pastor
“The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:15)
Lately I have been fretting about volunteerism at Second Church, thinking it is not where it should be for a healthy congregation. Hearing y’all talk about days gone by, I conclude that it must have been much easier to get volunteers in those “good old days.” That may or may not be true, but times have indeed changed and the church doesn’t seem to hold the same social position as it once did. Consequently, demands on our time have come from many other quarters of society. We can fret about that all we want, but our circumstance probably won’t change. In yesteryears, families were not as tied to two incomes and our children had fewer programmed activities from which to choose. There are more movies to see, more restaurants, and more TV channels to watch. Alas, that “landscape” that commands more of our time will not ease. Quite the contrary, we can expect the demands on our time to nothing but increase.
The fret I have about this state of affairs has a spiritual component. Living faithfully involves having time to do God’s work in the world and training up the next generation to pick up where we leave off. With respect to the Bible verse above, I ask the question: Where would the faith be if Elijah didn’t pass his “mantle” to Elisha before being taken up to heaven? Deuteronomy 6:6-7 commands us to pass the Good News on to our children. Where would we be today if our forebears in faith never passed anything along to us?
What does this have to do with volunteerism? I see a disturbing trend even in my own behavior as I see how things get done around the church. The same people do the same jobs year in and year out and hardly anyone new gets trained up, very few receive the “wisdom of the ages.” Nothing passes on to the next generation. Confession being good for the soul—if somewhat painful as well—I will throw myself under the bus. I have been editing the ADVANCE for over 2 years. This is the 25th issue I have produced, I believe, and there is no end in sight. Oh, it’s not that I’ve gotten no offers to help. It is more that I have not followed up those offers received from my very pleas for help. Why is that? Do I not want to let go? Do I somehow like the excuse to keep myself from doing what you really called me to do here? (I mean you didn’t call me to be your editor, did you?!) Well, I won’t go to deeply into the particular reasons for my flawed nature. What is more important is to note that, whatever my excuse, I am not training up a new generation, and that task is a crucial task of faith life.
Part of the faith life is being willing to let go of things, to carry things we have learned from our forbears in the faith and pass it along to the next generation. This new “landscape” makes the old ways of doing this obsolete. Even the tasks and skills we need have changed from what was needed in the past. To be people of faith, we must find that new way of incorporating the work of others. We must prepare those who would succeed us. I don’t think we are God’s last hope in this enterprise. God, not surprisingly has always found a way. But, who knows, maybe God has called us to work this out in such a time as this.