Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Gentle Jesus Meek And Mild"1 (Lyrics)
Some years ago, one of the churches in our area was without a minister for a couple of years. I was one of the people who went there on a regular basis to lead worship services. When the new pastor was about to take up residence in that town, on the last Sunday when I was there, they gave me a gift in appreciation for the time that I had worshipped with them. It was a rose bush in a pot. I don't know what kind it is, but it has pretty, little red flowers. I planted it behind the house and named it St. Andrew, after the name of the church.
When we downsized, almost nine years ago, I dug it up and put it in a big pot to take it along. But because it was wintertime, I could not plant it in the garden. So, I left it in the pot, found a sheltered place behind our house, covered it with a pile of leaves, and later added a pile of snow to keep it from freezing. In the spring, we put it in the ground, but it was struggling and did not do very well, perhaps because it was too wet. So, a couple of years ago, I moved it to some higher ground close to the house. I made a deep hole, put in some good soil and fertilizer, cut out the dead branches, and looked after it as best as I knew how. Even as late as mid-October, it was in full bloom, thriving, and beautiful.
Like my rose bush, churches in the western world are struggling. Although many older people in the area where I live used to be active in a congregation, for a variety of reasons, they have stopped going to church. Many of the younger generation, who grew up in a Christian home and attended Sunday school, have become adults without being involved in a church. As a consequence, their children were not raised in the church at all.
The early church in Corinth was also struggling, not because of a lack of interest but rather because of differences of opinion within the church community. Word of this had reached Paul while on a mission trip to Macedonia, and he decided to write them a letter. He reminded them that there were different people who had brought them the gospel.
1 Corinthians 3:6 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (NKJV)
I planted the rose bush, we did what we needed to do during the years of struggle, but God gave the increase. As our churches struggle, let us be assured that the church will survive, and God will give the increase, as He told Joshua:
Joshua 1:9b – Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (NIV)
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we earnestly plead that a change will come about and that more people will come to You and believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. We ask it in His holy name. Amen.