Sunday night I went to a monthly praise and worship service at my small church. On a regular Sunday morning, there are between 25 and 30 people attending. On Sunday night? There were 5 of us. The pastor and his wife, myself and a neighbor lady and her daughter. Usually there are the two other elders in the church who attend but they had to work that night and couldn't come.
Well, 5 out of 25. That's a fifth of the congregation. God doesn't measure the worth of our church by numbers. I enjoy the time (and I think God does too) whether there are lots of people or not. But...
What is the purpose of the praise and worship evening? Praising and worshiping. Bringing people together for fellowship. Hearing a more informal message.
As one of the elders in the church, I would like more people to attend this small block of time. I like hearing the occasional testimonies (though recently the messages have mostly been mine.) I would like to chat with people in a more open atmosphere. I bring cookies. We make coffee in hopes of having a sharing hour. But there isn't a great rush of people coming on Sunday night.
How much of what we do in life is barking up the wrong tree. When does one say "OK. This isn't working. Let's try another way."?
If nothing else, while living in Japan I've learned that one has to have patience. Wives patiently wait for the husbands to come home after midnight every night. Students patiently bear with uninteresting classes. On a larger scale, laws take years and years to change, trials go into decades. Becoming accepted in a community may take generations. A favorite phrase in Japan is "Let's wait and see."
I'm not a big fan of this phrase. I've seen children with illnesses or psychological problems yet the parents and teachers and professionals say "Let's wait and see." No treatment is given. I've observed criminal behavior in the neighborhood yet after all the discussion and gossip, the decision rather than to confront is "Let's wait and see."
So what am I saying? I think I'm actually a lot more patient and accepting than many foreigners in Japan who want to scream. "This is ridiculous. Do something!" Tetsu has described it to me that America has a 200 year history. Americans are go-getters and are used to change and progress. Japan is a country with a 2000 year history. Traditions are important, customs are followed and part of being wise to let things mellow out on their own.
It is very easy to throw in the towel. It is much more difficult to start something new, especially in Japan where change isn't considered a good thing. Commitment, diligence, forbearance are much more valued qualities and whether or not all this effort produces results is not really that important.
I guess I'm the only one that ponders what could be done differently for our little praise and worship service. Others are all happy that the opportunity to attend is presented to them whether they take advantage or not.
God says that where two or three are gathered He is with us so maybe I should concentrate on praise.