Solomon used the image of a path over and over in Proverbs. I think as church leaders, we sometimes focus too much on the goal and too little on the small daily steps that lead to that goal. Then we get impatient because change comes slow. Also, as individuals we think about where we would like to be in life, but we forget that our daily habits are what shape us. This was the theme of the sermon series that we started the year with.
In the series, we looked at three areas: 1) Know who you are. Solomon is writing to his “son”. A future king of Israel. When we choose our path, we need to know who we are and who we want to be. Do we want to choose the son’s path, or the fool’s path? Obviously, nobody wants to be on the fool’s path, but sometimes we choose it anyway. But knowing which path to walk down is not enough. We also need to walk down that path. 2) Take small, consistent steps. We are working on healthy habits. We want to eliminate those habits that distract and take away, and add daily habits that build up. 3) Protect yourself from temptations. Finally, we need to be on guard against situations and people that lead us away from the path that we have chosen. The journey is long, but it is made up of many small steps.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding… Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” Proverbs 2,1-9
Who are we as a church community? What are we called to be? Why has God called us to come together and learn from one another? One of the most significant aspects of our community is that we are the only free church in the region. The next free church in Austria is over an hour's drive away. For this reason, as a community, we have chosen to be intentionally theologically wide. There are some biblical absolutes, but there are many areas where Bible believing Jesus followers disagree or emphasize different aspects. We welcome this diversity.
Our task in church development right now is to build healthy habits. We are practicing intentional community by meeting together in uplifting small groups. We dream of a church where everyone is in community, so we are learning this habit. As we come together each Sunday to worship, we are learning to speak in ways that non-Christians and new Christians can understand. Even when there are no guests present, we practice the habit of speaking to the guests and making guests feel comfortable. This is also teaching those in attendance that the Sunday service is a place where their friends will be welcome. Before people will invite their friends, they need to know that if their friends come, it won't be strange and they won't be embarrassed.
For us, the largest temptation is returning to church as normal. There are old habits of doing things. These habits didn't serve the church in Ausserfern well. After decades of ministry, the church had basically died and few new believers joined the community. We need to continually keep our eye on the vision of reaching people who do not yet know Jesus.