Last night I had the honor of giving the invocation at the annual awards dinner for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. It was a splendid occasion with Peyton Manning as the guest speaker so there was a large turnout. It also celebrated the achievement of a number of people and places connected in one way or another with the Chamber. Having gone through the ceremonial start to the proceedings and the welcome by Governor Holcomb, I was invited to the podium and gave the prayer I had prepared. I was then seated at the table and enjoyed the food that had been provided and following the meal listened to the ‘thank you’ speeches of those being recognized before Peyton spoke.
Two things struck me during the time I sat listening to the presentations and the acceptance speeches. Firstly, there was an award presented to the mayor of Goshen Indiana recognizing the vision that had brought about a transformation of the community. Someone else was recognized for their long service to the Chamber. I couldn’t help thinking of the 24 members of Roberts Park we call our ‘Heritage Members’ who, like the individual last night, were recently acknowledged in worship as each having fifty years or more membership and service here in our church. The second thing that caught my attention was a comment from the Mayor who received the award. He spoke about how there was effort put into preserving buildings etc. so that our children and our children’s children might have the benefit of seeing and using them.
Now I am certainly not saying that the host of the dinner last night, or the mayor of Goshen is in anyway wrong to do what they are doing – both are laudable in their endeavors and should be supported – but I wonder how many longstanding memberships of the Chamber, or for that matter, how many 50 years ‘Heritage Members’ we will see in our congregation in the future? It is not in the nature of young people today to become ‘members’ of an organization, either religious or secular. Many will ‘affiliate’ themselves with a particular place or organization, but few will commit to a long term ‘membership.’ Yet in the Church we are called not to make members of the church but first to make disciples, members of the body of Christ. Matthew in the closing verses of his gospel says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and remember, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
It is through maintaining our focus on creating disciples that we will continue to preserve the Church for the generations to come, so that our buildings have their purpose and don’t become museums of the past. I would like to think there will be far more fifty-year recognitions by those who call themselves Christian that we might ever expect to see in any church or organization.