Like most clergy, I have this recurring dream (more like a nightmare, really) where I'm late for worship. The exact circumstances for my distress vary. Sometimes I can’t locate the manuscript of my unforgettable, yet unmemorable sermon. Sometimes I can’t unlock the front door of the church to get inside. Still other times, I’ll still be stuck in terrific traffic when the opening hymn is scheduled to be sung (tip: never take the George Washington Bridge to church!).
Regardless of the particulars, the overarching theme for all of these troubling dreams is that I’m running late and, for whatever reason, simply cannot get to the pulpit on time for the beginning of the Sunday worship service that I’m supposed to lead.
I bring this up to you today because I had “The Dream” again last night. Only this time, it DIDN’T involve a misplaced sermon manuscript, or getting to the elevated wooden pulpit on time, or anything else related to traditional Sunday morning service in a officially sanctioned sanctuary. Last night, for some reason, the conflict arose from my inability to get to my live-feed, faith-based podcast on time!
I wrote “for some reason”, but now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure of the reason.
You see, hours earlier, I had been sitting in my favorite fast food joint (rhymes with “Taco Bell”) when the older fella at the table in front of mine stood up, walked over to the condiment counter, grabbed a handful of napkins and then stashed them in his back pocket.
Or at least, he tried to.
I don’t know if the wad of napkins was too thick or his pants pocket was too small for this mission to be accomplished. All I know is that the poor guy tried, mindlessly and unsuccessfully, to put the same bunch of napkins into the same back pocket 8 times in a row!
Without looking, without thinking, and without success, the man just kept doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Sound familiar, Church?
Someone just emailed me yesterday that out of all the Annual Conferences in the whole world, ours has experienced the worst percentage drop in worship attendance over the last 2 years!
Now, I’m no marketing expert, but the words “worst“ and “worship” should never be used in the same sentence - especially in relation to your Annual Conference. Amen?
I’m also no psychologist, so maybe when it comes to dreams, a napkin is just a napkin. But what if a paper napkin is really a metaphor for a manuscripted sermon, or an old wooden pulpit, or immovable pews, or a long-robed choir singing a 250 year-old anthem born of Mother Europe? And what if a back pocket really represents the ever-increasing number of unchurched folk who are living and playing but not worshipping in our communities?
Do we really wanna keep preaching the same sermons, singing the same anthems/hymns, reading the same liturgies, following the same order of worship, having the same meeting, conducting the same stewardship drive, scheduling the same fundraisers, using the same evangelistic approach over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again without looking, without thinking, and without success?
I wouldn’t dream of it!