We’re not like… huge, not a megachurch by any means. But for our rural farming community, we’re one of the largest. The perception, at least, is that we’re big.
But I grew up in small churches affiliated with holiness denominations like the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan Church. My father attended Nazarene Bible College, and my grandparents are both Nazarene ministers. None ministered in a church that topped 100, to my knowledge.
And what I’m seeing now, and what I’m sure you might be familiar with, is a rift developing between the two churches. The age of denominational separation has essentially passed (thankfully) but it’s evolved now into a rift between small, usually rural, churches and large, not-rural, churches. I say “not-rural” because while large churches are usually found in metro areas, churches like ours operate in a very small cities of about 10,000 people, but our local economy is based on agriculture and manufacturing. So, we’re… pseudo-rural? Is that a thing? Either way, you get the idea. Big churches and little churches don’t exactly see eye to eye.
Two articles popped up on my timeline in the last couple of weeks, and if I could summarize them briefly I’d call them “anti-modern-worship.” Now, a caveat: they’re not completely anti-anything. I don’t think the authors were sitting at their desks petting their fluffy, white cat in a villainous manner thinking, “Mmm… yes, I shall now destroy those Hillsong loving hipsters and their four-word choruses…. mmm… yes… AND THEN I SHALL RULE THE WORLD WITH JOHN PIPER PODCASTS!! MUHAHAHAHAHAHA…..” I think the authors carry a genuine concern for the church and its direction in our increasingly secularized culture.
One of my first mentor-friends, Mike, gave me some great advice about work ethic. He said, “Keep hitting the side of the truck to keep the chickens in the air.”
That’s a humorous metaphor for how he lived his own life—he always had something cooking, kept an iron or two (or three, or four) in the fire. He was never complacent, never hung his hat on his life to grow old and fat. What I liked about my friend Mike is that he was always busy, but rarely rushed.
I think Jesus was that way too, and the Gospels show us that if we’re doing anything for the Lord, we will find ourselves busy.
Remember in high school English, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter? If you never had the pleasure of reading it, here’s the cliffs notes. The gist of the story is that a preacher in a tiny puritan New England town has an affair with a young lady. He is not punished; she is, and as punishment she must brandish a scarlet letter “A” upon the breast of her clothes. The “A” is for adulterer, of course.
There’s more to the novel, but for our purposes, that’s all you need to know. The woman was forced to wear her shame upon her chest for all to see.
My first semester of college overwhelmed me. A potent cocktail of 17 credit hours, 800 miles from home, and 15 freshman pounds had me on my butt by October. I broke out in hives. I didn’t get a lot of sleep.
My freshman mentor, a pleasant older professor with white hair and a quick smile we’ll call “Dr. Smith” saw the cracks in my glass and approached me after class one afternoon.
“I’m the student counselor here at LeTourneau University. Come to my office tomorrow. Let’s talk,” he said.
I’d never been to a counselor before, but I went anyway, albeit unsure.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He helped me work through some serious issues I never knew I had. He guided me into God’s grace and truth.