Does Vermont need Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church? Does this progressive and breathtakingly beautiful place with a high standard of living need a community of believers belonging to an ancient faith with out of step values?
It's a good question and the answer depends on who you ask.
Some of our neighbors would say that the answer is a flat "no." No, Vermont does not need Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church. We're doing quite well on our own, thank you.
Other neighbors, people who are attached to a certain version of Vermont, would say that yes, Vermont needs churches the same way it needs covered bridges and fall foliage.
Some others, people who appreciate the benevolence and soul care that churches like ours provide, would say that Vermont might not need Furnace Brook Wesleyan, but that it could use us, so long as we stick to stuff like taking on the food shelf.
But the important question to ask is not whether or not Vermont thinks it needs Furnace Brook Wesleyan, but whether or not God believes that Vermont needs us. And the answer to that question is resounding and was provided by the Apostle Paul long before the first maple creemee was ever dispensed into a cone.
In his letter to the Church at Philippi, Paul writes in chapter 2, verses 14-16, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."
The very existence of a faithful church serves to glorify God and to provide the community within which it is located an alternative to itself and a way marker. We are the blazes on the trailhead that leads to heaven. Salt and light.
But we can hardly blame our neighbors for taking lightly a church that its own members demonstrate little commitment to.
If we really believe that we are the shining stars offering our neighbors the "word of life," our commitment to each other and to the mission should be marked by cheerful devotion. But I'm afraid that what the world often sees is carelessness and half-hearted effort.
We're all still feeling the effects of the pandemic and all of us have experienced that in different ways. I myself am tired and am still licking my wounds.
But now is the time for actively loving the other people in my church and working with them to accomplish the mission of making more and better disciples for Jesus. Are you with me?
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