Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live in the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek a new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do. Steve Goodier, Quote Magazine, in Reader’s Digest, May 1990.
It is so easy in the small church to focus on what is dead and dying and to feast off that diet. It is easy for smaller churches to see the declines in attendance and income and become defeated by what they see. You begin to look around, and all you see is what was. There is often so much that is not working around us that the small church loses sight of the blossoms. In this post, I pray that I can point you to the blossoms, to what can be, to desire to seek a new life cycle for your ministry. In doing so, I want to give you three things you can do the change the perspective of your congregation.
1) Have an attitude of Confident Sacrifice.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24
There is a powerful parable contained in this little verse. Jesus in the Gospels understood the mindset of the ordinary people who made a living through the labor of their hands. Knowing how important that livelihood was to them, he chose his illustrations to connect with their everyday experiences. The people understood that any new life (harvest) was the result of dying (sacrifice) seeds. Jesus used this everyday part of life to connect this to His death and resurrection for the salvation of the world. But there is more. The statement that if the seed does not die but “remains alone” or unplanted implies the tragic condition that the harvest will never come to fruition. The connection for the church is; unless we have the confidence to get out of our comfort zone and plant seeds of the Gospel, the harvest will be significantly hampered. You may be thinking, “But it has been so long since we were actively planting seeds, is it too late? Are our seeds still alive?” You will find comfort in this story.
Some years ago, a vase hermetically sealed was discovered in a mummy-pit in Egypt, by the English traveler Wilkinson, who sent it to the British Museum. The librarian there, having unfortunately broken it, discovered in it a few grains of wheat and one or two peas, old, wrinkled and hard as stone. The peas were planted carefully under glass on the 4th of June, 1844, and at the end of thirty days, these old seeds were seen to spring up into a new life. They had been buried probably about three thousand years ago, perhaps in the time of Moses, and had slept all that long time, apparently dead, yet still living in the dust of the tomb. —Gaussen 1.
The power of God’s Word never dies, but it will accomplish its task.
2) Kingdom selflessness
Every young student knows of Isaac Newton’s famed encounter with a falling apple. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized astronomical studies. But few know that if it weren’t for Edmund Halley, the world might never have learned from Newton. It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original notions. Halley corrected Newton’s mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Halley edited and supervised the publication, and financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and easily could have afforded the printing costs.
Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science. Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence; Halley received little credit. He did use the principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet that would later bear his name, but only AFTER his death did he receive any acclaim. And because the comet only returns every seventy-six years, the notice is rather infrequent. Halley remained a devoted scientist who didn’t care who received the credit as long as the cause was being advanced.
Others have played Halley’s role. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Barnabus was content to introduce others to greatness. Many pray to uphold the work of one Christian leader. Such selflessness advances the kingdom. – C.S. Kirkendall, Jr.
It is with this kind of selflessness that we love as Jesus loved. He placed the needs of others above himself. He gave His life as a ransom for the world. We have this same love of Jesus living in us. Remember Jesus promise, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
3) Risky Faith
Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.- Source Unknown.
To have this Hummingbird attitude, we need have the courage to go where there is not a path, to blaze a trail where none may have walked before. People outside of God’s grace are not easy to deal with at times. There are times when you will run into the brokenness of their lives – failed relationships, messy life decisions with horrible consequences, which led to loneliness and distrust of others. You may run into a boatload of emotion and pain. Risky faith will be required. New life is not possible without death. The sinful old man needs to drown in the waters of baptism and faith created by the work of the Holy Spirit. He won’t die quickly. He will not go down without a fight. Risk is required, but the reward is worth whatever the risk.
The next post will finish out this series for the small church. I pray it will keep you thinking and encouraged. Be blessed!
Other posts in this series:
1.Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1146). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.