There’s a sound I miss hearing. The suspect buzzing between vinyl and hard glass. The sound of a fly who once flew freely in the house but saw the glorious sunlight filter through the blinds and was enticed. The sound of a fly who tried hard to get home. The sound of a fly beating its body on a window, buzzing and fighting to get out. When I hear this sound, I typically stop what I’m doing and let the bug out, saving him from a surely dire fate. But I haven’t heard that sound in months.
It’s still winter in northeast Ohio. We usually start seeing the heads of eager daffodils or the bright branches of forsythia by now. I call them the heralds of Spring. Bees and wasps begin buzzing. Gnats appear. Trees cautiously bud despite the freeze-thaw cycle. But even the hushed whispers of Spring have yet to begin. Bugs are all still dead, or hibernating, or whatever they do. I haven’t asked an entomologist, but I don’t need to in order to know that I won’t hear any flies for a couple more months.
The wings of a fly, the yellow faces of flowers, the budded-up branches all communicate one thing— the death that winter ushered in is over and life is sure to abound soon. I miss the sound of flies because I miss the sound of life. I’m sure if I could hear the sound of branches bursting with buds, I’d miss that, too.
I miss the sound of life because I’m tending to a church that is dying. We’re in our fourth year, and each winter we’ve been pruned. Four prunings. Four times slashed as a sapling. Maybe I don’t know the sound of popping buds because our branches are cut prior to spring each year, never given the chance to bloom and flourish. Maybe I only know the sound of distressed flies because our church body is scavenged year after year, and it seems the Enemy is circling us like a vulture who knows a field mouse is on its last breath.
I’m writing this because I love the church, deeply, truly, madly. I’m writing this because you should, too.
We decided to do a revitalization because we count the importance of the local body. We didn’t want to see her die. We couldn’t bare it. We moved our lives for her, we’ve suffered for her, we been maligned and slandered for her. We have given our lives for the church, Christ’s bride, because He has given His life for us. It’s the least we could do. The very, very least.
Our experience has been grueling. Year after year, trial after trial. But our love for the church hasn’t changed. This year, though, I’ve found that I walk around like a scorned dog, expected to be kicked by all whom I encounter. I expect you to hurt me. I expect it because it has happened, often. I expected it because we’re told, not infrequently, to question our work here. To look elsewhere. To give up if it’s so hard. I expect it because we’ve been forgotten by you, and our church is of no more importance to you than a passing, extemporaneous thought. She’s not worth more than leaving behind, death assured.
But what price would you pay to keep a bride alive? What would you give to make sure she thrives?
I think many of us find ourselves forgetful of the splendor of Christ’s Bride. I know I have. We find ourselves in bouts of not caring for Christ’s body of which we are a part. I know this because we’ve cried for help from many of you for years, and we’ve been forgotten and ignored. And I’m writing this now as a final plea.
It’s never been more tangible that our church could die. I’ve never more seriously thought about what comes next for us. I’ve never been more tired and I’ve never felt less hope. And part of this is on you. We would all be woefully ignorant if we didn’t realize that.
It’s on you because we need the church, local and universal. The Church local relies on the Church universal. The burden should be bore partly by you because you are a part of the same body, the very same flesh. Paul and I have felt the tangible effects of being prioritized and relegated out of your mind and hearts. Best case scenario you just didn’t think we needed help. Worst case, you didn’t care. In either case, you didn’t ask.
Each of you absolutely have the ability to take up cause on our behalf and may be choosing not to. We need our brothers and sisters to kneel before the throne of our gracious Father. We need our universal family to care. We need people to treat the church for what it is—a bride. A bride worth fighting for. Worthy of incalculable love. Worthy of self-sacrifice, even if that sacrifice is as small as a five-minute prayer.
Do you think that the Lord wants to see a church close its doors? Do you think He rejoices when the numbers dwindle, and she’s attacked by wolves? Do you think He’s happy that Grantwood Community Church seems to be breaths away from the grave, that a Reaper is waiting on her? I don’t think He does. And I think He’s given GCC a way to survive: through the other limbs of His Body. Through you.
I’ve spent months feeling guilty for our struggles in the church wondering if this is all my fault. But the truth is that it isn’t just on me. It’s not just on Paul. It’s on each member of Christ’s body, in our city and around the world. Pity doesn’t cut it anymore and apologies are empty. We need help and if we don’t receive it soon, this church will die. We need workers, friends, caretakers of the church. We need boots on the ground. We need finances. But more than anything we need prayer.
It may be impossible for you to give and it may be impossible for you to come, but it is never impossible for you to pray, and we’ve never needed prayer more. The bride of Christ deserves much more than carelessness. She deserves every saint to carry up pleas and cries on her behalf. She deserves to be fought for. She deserves to be seen for what she is: your own body.
Would you care about your own frostbitten toes? Would you can about your burned, blistered palm? Would you care about a heart attack? A battle wound? Infected lungs?
I admit this is bold and raw. I admit it’s coarse. But I’ve lost all shame on account of my pain. If my words don’t wage war against apathy and plead for help, they’re null. If my words are weak and ambiguous, they’re worthless. I have no shame left because I refuse to let pride be the reason our church never gets a fighting chance. We’ve done everything we can for this church. We’ve tended to her day and night, applying pressure to fresh wounds and soothing cloths to fevered foreheads. We’ve pursued sound theology, close community, and right thinking. We’ve fled from sin as best as we can. We are far from perfect, but we are nothing if not faithful to the task to which God has placed before us. And now we’re in desperate need of your help.
Those at Faith Family Baptist Church have ministered to us and given to us abundantly without reserve. Koinos Christian Fellowship has extended kindness, grace, and encouragement in ways I can’t adequately communicate without tears of appreciation. Pleasant Valley Church has supported Paul since the day we arrived. There are a handful of friends and family who give financially out of their own pockets and pray for us regularly. Imitate them as they imitate Christ. We are not totally without any help, but our backs are still breaking from our burdens. This is the burden that we, and church planters across the world, carry on a daily basis. It’s not enough for just a handful of people to push back the gates of Hell seeking to advance in our city. We need the fullness of Christ’s body to lift up our heads and strengthen our shattered spine.
The truth is that we began this journey on a sinking ship. We were never afforded a leg-up. For the past three years we’ve pleaded for help in many forms, but it seems as though many haven’t taken our dire state seriously. When waters came up waist-high all we heard was, “oh, you’ll be fine. We’ll send help in five minutes.” When waves crashed up to our necks, we heard “Have you tried swimming better?” Now, we can barely keep our heads up. Our lungs take in as much water as they do breath. We still see you, though. We see you holding a life preserver. Withholding a life preserver.
You may think there’s nothing you can do for us, or nothing moreyou can do for us. And this post would be a failure to not speak practically to what we need. What we need more than anything is people. We need mature believers who will come along side us long term and tend to the Bride’s wounds, binding her up and speaking to her tenderly. We need harvesters, those who will sow seeds without reservation and tend to them until they sprout and grow strong. We need shepherds, fiercely defending our sheep. We need people to love our church deeply in their marrow, in their very souls.
We also need funding. We lose money every month because of different partnerships dropping off. Many of you do give, and we are so grateful for your sacrifice. Many of you can’t give, and that’s ok, too. But our church is losing money no matter how many corners we try to cut.
Most tangibly for many of you, we need prayer. We need specific prayer. We need you to pray for both of the aforementioned needs above. We need you to kneel before God and take up our cause. We need you to do it until your lungs give out, because Lord knows ours already have. We need you to tell everyone you know to pray for us, too. And when you do pray, we need you to let us know. We need to know your prayers are carrying us, that you remember us, and that you care for our own well-being as well as the well-being of the Church. We are so alone and isolated, and we feel as though we’ve cried out for years for help to no avail. We’ve exhausted every option we have.
It’s still winter here and there’s no sign of life any time soon. There’s no sign that winter will actually end. No flowers, no color, no bugs. We need life. We need vitality. Grantwood Community Church needs help, now. There’s no chance for delay. Will you be complicit in her death, or will you join us in fighting for her life as your own body?