Some time ago, I wrote a piece here called Tools for Missionaries, which was formed out of a conversation I had with a woman in my congregation. She mentioned that they were the only family among their friends that they knew were part of a faith community. It occurred to me that every single person in our congregation is a missionary of sorts, and I wondered what kind of tools and training we would need to equip people with in order to do this work.
I've been thinking more since then, and it seems to me that one of the most powerful tools (or is it a gift?) that missionaries have is the ability to believe that God is working through them, and among them, and somehow see small signs of that work. Of course, there are times when the signs that God is working among us are huge and powerful, but I was a missionary in Japan in the 1980s, where the church is very small, and we rejoiced when just one of our students was baptized.
This is the most powerful tool for us, as well, 21st century missionaries in our families, to our friends, in our neighborhoods. God is working through us. God is working among us. God is working in us. Sometimes the signs are huge and powerful, but more often there are small resurrections in the middle of our everyday life.
I am not opposed to churches that are growing, but I do think that we put too much emphasis on numbers, at least sometimes. There's a church in my community that regularly gets young adults in their doors. But they are a transient community; they come and go; they are not adding to their permanent rolls. But that doesn't mean that this church couldn't have a vital role in nurturing and helping those young adults grow deeper in their faith, for the season that they are with them. My own congregation has a handful of regular worshipers from India. They are only here for a season, to work at a nearby company. But God has sent them to us for a reason, and they are a part of our community. Seeing them is one of my "small resurrections", a reminder that God is indeed working among us.
Right before Easter we had a lighting malfunction which was serious enough that it could not be corrected. So the lights have been dimmer than usual this Holy Week and Easter. But maybe that's the way it is, more often than not: the lights are not always as bright as we'd like them, but we can train our eyes to see the small resurrections that are around us. We can train ourselves to point then out for one another, because sometimes one of us can see better than the others.
On Easter Sunday I saw a few small resurrections: a confirmation student who has become a regular lay reader read both of the lessons at our late service, and he read them with strength and conviction. I saw two very new babies here, with proud parents and grandparents; I saw three couples who are getting married this summer; I heard the bells ring loud on the hymn of the day, "Now all the vault of Heaven Resounds." The sound held on for a few minutes after the end of the hymn, echoing joy. I shook hands with a man in a wheelchair, someone I had not seen for awhile; I saw people I knew and people I didn't know. And though I know not how, I somehow believe that God is working through us. God is working among us. God is working in us.
Can you see? If you do, let me know. I need your eyes as well....