Sometimes there is just nothing you can do

If your church is anything like ours, you will know that it is most definitely not perfect. Lots of imperfect things regularly stare you in the face. Issues arise and, as best as we try to deal with them, often our attempts to handle them are far from ideal.

The tendency whenever issues arise is to look for fixes. On one level, that is right and proper. None of us should want to see what is sub-optimal and be happy about it. Where there are genuine issues and problems, as best as we are able, we ought to want to address them. It is a measure of our care for our people that we want to meet the real needs that exist.

But sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do. Or, there are things you can do that are better than nothing, but there is nothing you can do to eradicate the problem. Our knee-jerk response to any issue is to want to fix it, but we sometimes find ourselves stuck in a position where there is no meaningful fix.

Let me give you some for instances. We do our best to translate everything that goes on in our church. But, short of having a UN-style setup with PhD translators, whatever we offer is always going to be sub-optimal. That has gotten worse during lockdown because some of what we were able to offer in person can’t be replicated online. However you cut it, this is all far from ideal now.

Or let’s think about the music in our church. I would love an incredible band full of people who are musically awesome. But, generally, what we have are a few people (among them, myself) who are just about passable, doing our best to serve the congregation and help them sing together. Leaving aside the issue of what we’re most trying to achieve (we’re not necessarily aiming for competence first and foremost, though we do want to be competent), this remains less than A-grade.

But sometimes, we just have to accept that we cannot fix the problem. We can’t magic up what we don’t have and we can’t fix what it’s not possible to fix. If the Lord hasn’t gifted us with translation lecturers and concert pianists, we can’t do a right lot about it. And that, in many ways, is perfectly alright. It’s not on us. It’s the Lord’s decision to gift us whatever we have.

Other times, we insist that we must do something about any given problem. Such and such an issue arise, let’s do something about it. But sometimes, the right thing to say is that there just isn’t anything we can do. It’s not that we’re pleased the thing isn’t as good as it might be, but we have to acknowledge that we can’t necessarily do anything about it.

What we teach people about the church in these moments is key. The church can’t necessarily fix everything and, more to the point, doesn’t exist to do so. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that there are limits to what we can, or even should, do. Then, instead of pointing people to the church as their saviour, we can point them to Jesus. That is, after all, what we’re there to do, isn’t it?