Rain & Change

given on June 13, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain.  The feelings we get when all we do is see the rain chances in the forecast or look up in the sky to see more clouds are taking a major toll on us.  I just cannot imagine another day of dreariness, and we thought the snow and cold was bad all winter.

Rain is the title of Rob Bell’s very first published video.  Most years that one word would be a welcomed one, but this year it just seems to call up all the dismal emotions I can possibly have tucked away.  Rain?  Why would that be Rob Bell’s first video.  I watched it, and it spoke.

Rain represents exactly all the negative emotions and fears we can feel draining us dry.  Rain also nurtures.  The video points out that even when life is the very scariest, we still have God.  Rain may be flooding us, but God will be with us through it all.  Rain may be missing in our drought-filled lives, yet we need it to sustain our lives—just like God is needed in our lives.

Rain’s message is so direct, so simple, and so emphatic as Bell tells his son:

“I love you, Buddy.

We’re going to make it.

Daddy knows the way home.

We’re going to make it.

I love you.”

What comforting words those are even if we are not tiny tots needing our dads to protect us.  Maybe we identify with those words and emotions because we have told our children the same things.  Regardless, the video Rain creates a strong audio-visual image for us increasing our understanding of the message from Deuteronomy 1:31:

…There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.

Rain brings change.  Just as Rob Bell changed his ministry and began reaching beyond his home church, Rain potentially can change our lives.  One of the most basic needs in life is rain, and it helps change the dry parched earth into a thriving land filled with flowers and fruits.  Rain brings change.

The video Rain is a tool, one that could be ignored; but change is happening all around us and videos are making a difference in our churches.  In fact, videos were a huge element (all four mega screens) at annual conference as we shared our stories, heard the messages, and learned how to spiritually grow.

Rain and change are two very frightening words today.  Granted rain would not strike fear in our hearts if we were following the typical weather patterns, but this spring rain can send chills right up your spine.  Change is another word that strikes fear in us.  Yet without change there is little growth.

Having attended Annual Conference for just five years, I do not have the same attendance record of many attendees.  Why one pastor I know personally, Cleo Colville, has attended 60 years consecutively!  I can only imagine the changes he has witnessed; but in my five years I can also list some of the changes at Annual Conference.  Bishop Schnase is not one of the changes, but he continues to offer different focuses for each year and this year there was a major shift—away from the megachurch images to the small churches.

Granted the emphasis on the five fruitful practices continue to dominate the discussions in our state, have now extended to many other states and has even gone global.  The five practices are simply a clear pattern to maintain the same values John Wesley emphasized in his ministry.  The adjectives in the practices may seem surprising, but they place the emphasis in the practice itself.

For the past four years, the five practices have been discussed as the structure for the churches.  The mega churches, which have received so much notice, typically have translated the five practices into a thriving ministry, but the small churches have felt threatened.  The Bishop now is shifting the emphasis this year to the small churches, and his five practices are shifting to the personal development of faith.  My perception is that the environment of the small church is an excellent one for growing in personal faith—until you reach “risk-taking mission.”

This brings the discussion needing change even in the small churches.  It is the job of the small community churches to identify the mission-field unique to its geographical region.  It is the job of the church members to determine what needs they are going to tackle in order to be the hands and feet of God in the community.

Change, like rain, can be life-saving.  Change, like rain, can offer hope.  Change, like rain, is nothing to frighten us because God is there as we confront the problems honestly and work to find solutions.

Granted, “location, location and location” can be a cry that must be answered.  We are not selling the church, we are the center of the community we are to serve.  We are also the center of a wider community we can connect with in order to expand our ministry.  The location simply provides us the hub from which we are to serve.

Change must also take place in order to stay current with the community around us.  If the newer generations hear through technology, then we should consider how they hear us.  If the newer generation does not feel connected to the community, we need to develop the community to which they can feel connected—via cards, emails, websites, cell phones, etc.  We need to find the people who may be just waiting for God to reach them through our contact.  Change may be scary, but change can refresh our community in Christ.

This summer we are going to change.  We are tired of the rain and the same old routines.  We know that God loves us unconditionally, we know that we have spiritual gifts, and we know that we can show others how God’s grace makes a difference in our lives.  It is important for us to seek to grow spiritually and that may mean we need to change our personal habits or routines.  It is important for us to live our faith openly and outwardly.  Our community deserves our best, even if we have to change.

During these summer weeks, we are going to change a bit beginning with the video Rain and more.  Let’s join together to view the videos during the weekly Church Chat.  Let’s team up with one another to identify the mission field and find what we can do to make a difference.  Let’s welcome rain and change because we know it will cause everything around us to grow.

Dear Almighty Father,

You have loved us unconditionally.  You have waited for us to hear you.  You have gifted us with skills and talents.  You have called us to make disciples of Christ.  You have commissioned us to serve one another in love.  We know you support us, guide us, and nurture us.  Help us not be afraid of the rain or of change.  Help us to listen closely as we work to grow spiritually and as a community of Christians.  Thank you, too, for a close-knit Christian family who loves you and wants to do all they can for all that they can.   –Amen

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