Pastoral Ponderings…March 2016

Dear God,

“Come on in. Make yourself comfortable.”

Those are some of the most significant words in my lexicon. Other include, “Can I take your coat?”, “Don’t worry about your shoes.”, “Would you like a cup of coffee?” (Since it’s assumed that all God-fearing people like coffee: black, no cream, strong.), and finally, “Plain or peanut M&M’s?” (Which reflects our awareness of consuming a well-rounded diet which includes the 6 Food Groups: Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, Proteins, Dairy, and M&M’s.)

At my childhood home “Make yourself comfortable” always meant the kitchen. Our farmhouse kitchen was fairly large (there were six of us kids), and the centerpiece of the kitchen was the yellow formica-topped table with chrome legs and the eight matching chrome-legged chairs. Mom had recovered the chairs several times with new, yellow fabric covered by clear, shiny plastic in an attempt to make them easier to clean and last longer. Both goals met with with limited success.

The “front room” was television, wrestling matches among us cousins, a big meal, or a Packer game. All of our furniture was worn…except for the kitchen chairs mom kept re-covering.

The coffee pot was always brewing on the stove. After all, what’s an invitation without coffee? It was one of those tin pots with the clear glass ball on top, later replaced by the electric percolators: first a pale-green percolator followed by an odd reddish colored pot. I liked the coffee from the stove better and always thought the percolators tasted sort of “tinny”. With our first “Mr. Coffee” we seemed to step into a new millenium, but I always liked the coffee from the pot on the stove the best.

Making yourself comfortable” was the one thing I always felt characterized my childhood home. Jimmy Larson’s parent’s home was always formal and clean. Lester Smith’s was always a little too comfortable and smelled of hogs. Randy Erhlich’s parents both smoked and the house reeked of cigarettes. I’m sure they all felt homey to the family, but I liked ours the best.

As a pastor there are few better words to hear than when guests or new people tell me they were greeted warmly, made to feel welcome, and felt comfortable in church. It’s even better when that comfort is followed by words such as, “I was comforted”, “I felt God’s presence”, or “It was just what I needed.” Still, an invitation to church often includes, “It’s really a comfortable church!”

But that comfort can be the kiss of death for the life and energy of a congregation. Ironic, isn’t it…

that the very thing we cherish the most can be the thing that holds us back. The problem is that we get comfortable simply attending church when we feel like it rather than considering what you call us to do to make the church more effective, faithful, and intriguing.

I saw a four-box church cartoon a few years ago. The first had the committee chair asking, “Does anybody have any New Business?” A man raised his hand and said “We have a problem in church because there’s really a lull in volunteers in lately.” The third box had all the members looking at him with a blank gaze and no comment. The final box had the chair asking, “Do I have a motion to

adjourn?” Everyone had gotten comfortable and nobody wanted to address the obvious.

I feel as if we’ve become a little too comfortable in church lately with the same people doing all the work and many of us just showing up for Sunday and then leaving. We have committee positions that need energy, Sunday School teachers, a co-chair for a new church directory, people to add their committed voices to the choir or bell choir, and many other small jobs. It feels as if there’s a general sense that attending is enough.

Every church falls into a lull, but not every church recovers. Many just get comfortable being comfortable. To recover from the lull every member has to challenge themselves to a greater level or participation. If we don’t challenge our activity in church we move from being comfortable to becoming complacent. Maybe you can help us to walk that fine line between being comfortable and becoming complacent.

As always, thanks for listening. I love you,

Dan