On the Corner
by Robert Docter –
I noticed on the front page that our territory had only achieved a one percent gain in meeting attendances between 1994 and 1997. This bothered me. So, being completely human, I immediately thought to myself: “Who can I blame?”
This, of course, is the wrong question–one that will never lead to the right answer. Nevertheless, I wasted a few minutes engaged in that quagmire. My first thought, naturally, was to blame the leadership. “It’s their fault,” I said. I took this direction because I learned long ago that the fastest way to escape a problem is to blame someone else, and the leadership is handy, vulnerable, defenseless, and easily criticized. One can even become more popular by criticizing the leadership. You might ask: “Just whom are you talking about when you say leadership?”
Well, to be honest, I don’t know. “They” are that anonymous and invisible “they” we talk about when we say: “They won’t let us do what we need to do to make our corps better.” I suppose it’s anybody from the corps officer up to the General.
Then I read the other story on page one–the one in which the “leadership” said we could do almost anything we wanted within parameters of the Army’s belief system. We could try anything. The sky’s the limit. They changed the name of the game from “you can’t” to “YOU CAN.”
This was awful! This was an abrogation of responsibility. They were telling me that I had responsibility for the growth of my church–that I had to be the one who told others about Christ –who invited friends and relatives–who worked to plan social programs–participated in the administration of the church–made people feel welcome–planned some kind of outreach effort–communicated the mission of the Army to the community at large. “They” have delegated the responsibility to ME. “What are they thinking of? Do they know what they’re doing? Don’t they realize how busy I am? I’m not a full time employee. I’m not an officer. It’s their job, and if “they” were doing it better, the place would be filled,” he said at the top of his voice. “How can they expect me to make two or three phone calls–or write two or three post cards–or drop a couple of sentences into a conversation about where I go to church and why I find it beneficial to be part of such a unique and important caring ministry? No! They must be mistaken–well meaning, I’m sure, but clearly mistaken,” he added matter-of-factly.
After all, who would I complain about if I was the only one to blame. No! We must resist this monumental transfer of power. Otherwise, we will have to start trying to figure out why our corps aren’t growing and then, even worse, have to do something about it. Oh, oh–we might even have to witness.
With this, I couldn’t force the why question from my brain. It was stuck there–like trying not to picture an elephant in your mind. So, what might be some reasons we have gained only one percent in meeting attendance over the past four years? I don’t know the answer to that question, but here are some questions worth considering.
1. Do I really want to have increased attendance? Sometimes I get happy going to my own private club meeting. More people might wreck it. Then, I remember Jesus wasn’t into private clubs.
2. Am I embarrassed about inviting people to the Army? After all, they might not like the part of town–or the kind of people there–or the quality of the music–or the character of the sermon. Then, I realize that I go to a church that works at loving others regardless of their social position–a church that believes that everyone is the same in God’s eyes.
3. Could it be that I am just plain lazy? Now that’s getting too personal. My work ethic is clearly evident. Then again, am I working at building self or building the kingdom? Do I give even close to 10 percent of my time to God?
Well–that’s a start. It’s just too painful to go on. More later.