Blog - Embodying Truth
Old Book, Current MessageThursday, January 05, 2012
Of all people, we Christians should prize old books. After all, the most recently written parts of our Bible are nearly 2,000 years old. I’ve just finished reading a book authored 40 years ago by Richard C. Halverson, who pastored churches in Hollywood, California, and in Washington, D.C.
He tells how one of his most active church members came to him to say he was thinking about serving as local school board president. This would mean, the man said, that he would have to give up most of the activities that he had been involved with in the church. Yes he would still be able to attend Sunday morning meetings. But he would have to resign from the church board, the class for unmarrieds, and so on.
Halverson candidly admits his own internal response: "My reaction to this was resentment that a ‘secular’ organization would steal such a devoted young man from the activities of the church. However as I prayed about it, it occurred to me that nothing could be finer than that a committed Christian such as he serve as president of the local school board. Think what it would mean if every school board in the United States would have as its president a truly dedicated Christian!”
In those days the church Halverson was pastoring numbered about 7,000 members. He began asking himself: How many people it would take to do the work required to sustain the programs of the church? The answer astonished him. A mere 365 people—just over five percent—were all that the church really needed for its choirs, Sunday school staff, official boards, and other functions.
This sparked in his mind a process that explains the title of this 40-year-old book: How I Changed My Thinking about the Church.
He began what he calls a ministry of listening. "I devoted several days a week simply to moving from office to office shop to shop and out on the oil leases and large farms which surround the city—just being visible and available. Men became used to my presence where they were putting in their daily work and I was soon able to visit with them on their jobs.”
Halverson’s change of thinking about the church resulted in several insights we need perhaps even more today than when he wrote them:
"The real work of the church is what is done between Sundays when the church is scattered all over the metropolitan area where it is located—in homes, and schools, and offices, on construction jobs, and marketplaces.”
"... many Christians have become so busy in church work they have not had time to do the work of the church."
"In the minds of many there is absolutely no connection between what occurs in the church on Sunday and what goes on in the community the rest of the week."
"Most of the week the church is not at the address where she worships; she is scattered all over the community, in hundreds of homes, schools, offices and markets, etc.”
"All the programs within the church are for the purpose of enabling the church to do the work of the ministry between Sundays when she is invisible as a congregation.”
Dr. Halverson also served 13 years as Chaplain of the United States Senate, as an associate in the National Prayer Breakfast, and on the Board for World Vision.