Confession. Sometimes I wish I believed in manipulation as a pastoral tool for change. When I attended a large Southern Baptist Church we had incentives. High attendance Sundays were a thing. Members were encouraged to bring family and friends and NOT go out of town that particular weekend. Sunday School contests were run which included praising the classes who had the highest percentage of roll attendance. There were some challenges to the system. I remember that when my friend Rob and I were teaching a tenth grade class, he got the great idea of purging the roll of all the kids whose families had moved away. Maybe you are unaware, but the only way you can ever get off a Sunday School class roll is – surprisingly not death – but it requires sending an actual letter to the church and asking to have your membership transferred. Even if we know Jimmy Smith moved to Lousiana when he was six with his parental units, we were not allowed to purge him from the roll. It did not matter that our birthday cards were “returned to sender”, no purging allowed! But here’s the thing – we wanted to! We wanted to get rid of that “dead wood” so that we could win the prize! Winning inspires! (Well, it inspires Rob and I!)
Alas, I am painfully aware that this is not mature. What does it really matter in the grand scheme of things if we happen to have an inaccurate Sunday School class roll? There is something intuitively RIGHT about this inclination to never let a person go – to never consider anyone “dead wood”.
What we know about recovery of sight for the blind, freedom from bondage, and all that good stuff that Jesus came to proclaim is this: it NEVER occurs in isolation. This is why I wish I could figure out how to manipulate my community to be regular attenders at meetings of all kinds. I resist the temptation because I know manipulation is part of codependency and I’m trying to work my own recovery program. But oh how I wish I could convince myself that the ends justifies the means. Because it really matters, this practice of faithfully showing up for community.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, the writer teaches this principle when he says: Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap. Ecclesiastes 4:12 CEB
This is truth. We don’t do well as Lone Rangers. Find a way this week to build a team. Remember that one thing that you are choosing to DO ( ________) and figure out what kind of support you need to help you practice this new way of being.