I was chatting with a neighbour today. I had been out on a walk and was just getting back as they were going out. We chatted about the colours that are likely to come up in our gardens soon. We talked about the places we like to walk around our local area. And we both talked about just how much we really loved living here.
There really is only one thing, we discovered, we didn’t like so much. We don’t have very good public transport. We’re one of the bits of Greater Manchester that isn’t quite on the tram line and the buses have one route where we are and they don’t come all that often. Just about every other bit of living where we do we really liked, but we just wish the transport situation would be sorted.
Whilst there is loads to like, as we were talking about the buses and tram, we reckoned that the lack of such things inevitably meant we were limited a bit. There are all sorts of things we might like to do but, because the transport isn’t A-grade, it just isn’t possible. And that is one thing for us, but when you’re a young person looking for work, it makes living in our particular area a less attractive prospect. Unless you have a car – which many don’t and can’t afford – you are inevitably a bit snookered or looking at a three bus journey to where there are jobs. It’s not an insurmountable problem, but it certainly isn’t ideal and is significant enough to impede a fair number of people I bet.
Of course, this post isn’t about my pitch for better (preferably nationalised) public transport around Oldham (though, kudos to Andy Burnham who has managed to ca bus prices around Greater Manchester now so they’re in line with London). I was minded to think the issue with the buses is not unlike the issue many churches face.
Most churches have lots of like about them. They are a bit like living in my area. So much to enjoy, lots to like, enough going on. But also much like my area, there will inevitably be things that many churches would like to do, but they really can’t do, because they just don’t have the means. Just as the limit on buses necessarily makes it harder for us to get around and do certain things – and for some people even impinges on what job they can get – so churches suffer from this same issue. It is the limitation of resources.
There are all sorts of things we would love to do as a church. If you wanted a list of ministries and activities we could be doing, in an ideal world, we have a list. But the reality is that many of those things are just not possible for us. We do not have the resources. We neither have the man-power, the money, the skills nor some of the vast resources you might like to do them. There are lots of ideas we might have – some of them probably quite good ideas in principle – but in practice, we just can’t implement them or do anything with them. Good idea on paper, not possible in practice.
In the end, we just have to come to terms with that reality. Just as no place is perfect to live in – there are always some compromises you have to make and can very rarely get absolutely everything you want – so very few churches have the resources to do everything they might do as well. At some point, they have to make choices about what they are able to do, what will be most fruitful and then get about doing it. No church is able to do everything and so every church has to settle for doing what it is able with the resources with which the Lord has blessed it.
But just like the area in which I live, you can love your church well despite knowing it can’t do everything it might. You may have a burning desire to do a particular ministry or enter into a specific role. Maybe the Lord will open that door for you and provide the resources to do that in time (much as I hope he provides a tram for my part of town). But in the meantime, just as I still love my area despite its ropey transport links, you can still love your church despite it being unable to undertake whatever ministry it isn’t able to do right now. And perhaps, if you have enough desire to make it happen, that will be the catalyst for it to begin in time.
Churches, much like places to live, are rarely perfect. Churches, much like places to live, will have things to love about them and things we wish were there that aren’t. Churches, much like places to live, can be properly loved by us despite their not being able to do everything we might like all of the time.