In the 80’s a little white frame church building used to sit on the road between Lubbock and Lamesa (long e), Texas. It was a very small building that could have seated 50 at the most. On Sunday mornings you’d probably find just a handful of congregants, all silver-haired.
The absence of change either of its size, color, or location was ironic given how the world all around was and is changing. New businesses, new people moving into the community, new political elections, and a thousand other changes in communication, medical care, and education. The world flies by the little church building at warp speed.
Maybe I’m wrong. I suppose they could have decided they would not spend money on buildings and asphalt but rather on children and digging wells in Africa and sending missionaries to the world. But then again, I know how myopic we humans can be.
It happens all the time. An organization begins with a noble, altruistic vision. But noble visions often give way to concerns about budgets, parking lots, and housekeeping. It only takes a generation for the change to start. Which is why it is so inspiring to read the first chapter in an organization’s story. When passion and energy are high and vision is clear.
That’s what the New Testament book of Acts is – a look over the shoulder of a first generation group. A group full of passion, boldness, and courage.
In the opening years of the church’s existence, she had challenge after challenge thrown at her. Some of these were political as she learned how to respond to the Roman government and its threats. At other times it was cultural as she learned how to embrace an increasingly diverse membership – no longer all Jewish as in the beginning.
The biggest challenge of all was how to respond to a culturally diverse population as the church grew beyond her comfortable Jewish roots and context – Ephesus with its worship of the Roman goddess Diana, for example.
Frankly, if my assumptions are correct, the little church lost her way. Which is incredibly unbelievable given the nature of the good news which she has to share. But good news can be forgotten or overlooked when the Roman government says you’re illegal or the local silversmith union starts a riot on account of your message.
At those times it becomes very easy to retreat into the comfort of one’s building. But then again, “comfort” is not particularly visionary or inspiring.