May 26, 2022 | | Deepen Faith, GNJ News

 My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God. 1 Cor 15:58

Early on a spring morning, I walked out of my house to find a beautiful pink carpet of flower petals. This made my heart smile. For a few short weeks each May, our flowering cherry tree is filled with billowy pink blooms, then when the blossoms fall, they create a lush path of color. For me this is the sign that spring has come, but it is also a reminder that persistence has its rewards.

Many years ago, we planted a sapling; it was a few feet tall with a straight, slender trunk. We placed it on the corner of our home, near a turn in our driveway. Maybe in hindsight a little too close to the driveway. Now saplings are flexible, so they usually don’t break, but this poor little tree got backed over more than once. Soon it was not much more than a twig sticking out of the ground. But faithfully each spring it seemed to rebound.

When it had sprouted a few feet we questioned, was it worth keeping this tree, it was not going to be the ornamental tree we expected. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to taking it out, we were in awe of its persistence. While it was never quite the same, it grew steadily. Nature is persistent. While there are often outside forces that disrupt life for a time, they then become stable, adapt, and produce new life.

There is no question, being the church in 2022 is challenging. Sometimes you might feel like my little tree, run over and broken. The pandemic, economic hardships, inconsistent church attendance, social strife, and political upheaval have all had an impact on our ministries. Today I am wondering, can we as a church take a lesson or two from nature of how to persist?

Stabilize: While the top of our tree was faced with trauma, the root system kept it stabilized for the present and the future. In our local churches we need to dig into practices that will stabilize our faith for today and offer the foundation to grow in the future. This is the time to get back to some basics, take time to pray together, study God’s word, and invest in the care and the spiritual growth of your leaders. This summer’s Breakthrough Series, “Celebrate” has some different kinds of small group activities to help engage your congregation in celebrating their diversity, unity, and promise.

Adapt: When our tree started to grow it was no longer a single slender trunk, but a clump of trunks, it had adapted to its situation. Adaptability has always been one of the mainstays of the church. Over the last few years, we have had no choice but to be flexible. However, it could be tempting to let go of that spirit of adaptability now that we are moving past the pandemic. Adaptability requires that we keep an open mind to letting go of what might no longer work as well as embrace what is new. During the pandemic congregations set up care networks to support their members, these were vital to the health of so many, so let’s keep that work going. However, at the same time many churches are still waiting for their volunteers to come back. This might be the time to revisit your volunteer practices. Susan Beaumont offers seven ways to reimagine volunteer engagement.

New Life: As a result of creating a good root system and adapting to change, our tree over time grew strong and has flourished. Aside from the beautiful spring flowers it offers a home for many birds, shade for the dog, and improves the quality of our air. If you are ready to explore new possibilities and goals for your congregation, Pathways to Healthy and Fruitful Ministry will offer you the process to consider what is next for your congregation. You are invited to join Lan Wilson and me on Wednesday, June 8 at 7 p.m., for a one evening workshop to determine if Pathways is the right process to help your congregation envision what God has in store for you next.

Persistent faith is not blind stubbornness, it recognizes that ministry can be hard and yet presses through the trials, the challenges, the ups, and the downs. So, this summer how will you individually and as a congregation lean into the foundations of your faith? How might you need to adapt in this season? In this season of challenge where are you seeing opportunities for new life?

People need the transforming power of the good news. When you faithfully serve God, that work will never be wasted. It might not look like you had expected, or even hoped but it will matter.