It was a line from a Dirty Harry movie. The first time I heard it, I loved it. Such wisdom for a violent movie, yet the truth was so obvious. Make no mistakeâ€¦man does have limitations! We may refuse to accept that; we may not want to recognize it, but it is a physical and spiritual truth.
I want to address this as our great church problem. We are supposed to be a people of faith in God. Yet, we consistently attempt to do things, in our own strength, which are beyond our ability. We seek new programs, new ideas, new pastors, NEW ANYTHING, rather than admit we are unable. As that old clichÃ© says about Grandma finally giving up: â€œI guess weâ€™re gonnaâ€™ have ta pray. It looks like it has came down to that!â€
Why are we always treating prayer, and God, with that attitude? You would think we were going to receive some exorbitant bill from God for services rendered. Or, that we could not possibly impose our little shortcomings on the Almighty! Where do we get that attitude? What kind of pride is that? We should learn to run to God at the first sign of trouble. Do you know anybody who does that?
Anyway, as churches look on a typical Sunday morning, pews have more empty seats than full ones. We struggle to get our members to support events or attend regularly. We do not have many young people or young families. We have little success in getting new members, of any age, to be interested in church. Some of us see that as a problem. Some wish to ignore it. Some prefer not add any new faces they donâ€™t already know.
Well, if there is a problem, the best solution is not a new approach or a new program. It is not a new pastor. It is not a new congregation. Nor is it a nasty letter to those who have quit coming to the church. It is a change in our hearts and a new direction of help from God. It is the admission that we are not in charge of this problem. If it is a problem, it is Godâ€™s problem, not ours.
Yes, we should take credit for our stubborn hearts and ask God to forgive us for any poor attitude. We can ask help to clean out the old troublesome ways. But if there are those here in this area that need what we can offer them through our church, it is God and His Holy Spirit that can dislodge them and bring them to our doors better than anyone else. And again, if we show acceptance to them, it is Godâ€™s Spirit that will encourage them to take root and grow.
I do not propose this out of laziness or indifference. This approach is more scriptural than most of todayâ€™s over-organized shams, or TVâ€™s glamorized media. We do not need another newfangled idea, or slick gimmick; we need old-fashioned prayer and reliance on God. We need to realize it is Godâ€™s problem and not our own. We can accept our limitations and go to the source for the solution. We can fumble along on false pride, or we can admit defeat and return to our incredible God. Donâ€™t you suppose Godâ€™s been waiting?
It is decision time in our churches.
It is decision time in our hearts!
Joseph M. Westfall is a bi-vocational minister living in Oak Ridge. Since 1975, his ministry has covered pastoral positions in 17 churches across several denominational lines in six different states. He has special training and experience in interim ministry for churches in transition. He has a Biblical style and teaching heart. He encourages honesty and the Holy Spirit. His favorite response to a sermon he has preached? â€œYou make me think!â€