counting sheep.

Easter is coming up here soon. in one week and one day to be exact. 
Easter is one of the two Sunday’s when many people visit churches as ECC’s – “Easter & Christmas Churchgoers”, or so the stats say… 
sooo… many of the churches ’round here -in Picktizzytown– are pulling out all the stops and prepping for a full house, lights-camera-action, hit one outta the park, bangin’ Sunday service! 
including advertising additional service times and easter eggs falling from the sky…sorta like “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” minus the scientist making it happen, but – and of course there is a but – including the news coverage and expecting a large crowd response / uh-hem turnout. 
and we are pulling out the cross. 
and the ‘stations of the cross‘. 
and having a 7a.m. sunrise service. *bonus*.
dang. this chick is sure being critical of the churches in her town…
perhaps it sounds that way, and i will tell you why. 
[they deserve it
ha ha. no – for realz…
it’s not that an extra church services or easter egg hunt [with an unprecedented number of eggs] on land are wrong, or a shower of easter eggs falling from the sky is un-biblical… 

you see, eight years ago we began serving in our church as the youth and associate pastor, and me {his awesome wife} as one of the worship leaders.

fast forward a few years and adam became the senior pastor… and shortly afterwards, we became sheep counters. 
we settled into this really bad habit of counting sheep.

not the before you go to bed kind of counting sheep. 
rather, counting the number of sheep in our field -the sheep we were shepherding- the number of sheep in our church kind of sheep. 
and all of sudden we found ourselves competing with the church down the street.
‘i bet such and such church has more people than we do because they have bigger programs and a better parking lot and cooler signs and a hip website and a larger sanctuary and a formal sound system and tastier coffee [well, this one is most likely true] and blah blah blah…’ the list could go on and on.
and… ‘maybe so and so who just left our church now goes to such and such church down the street’. 
ugh. 
you can see this ‘lil bad habit of counting sheep was exhausting the Shepherds… not numerically… but spiritually. 
and we noticed something – this was a sneaky habit – a lie from the enemy, dripping with distraction.
and this was a distraction which focused our hearts more on pleasing man than God.
ugh. and ugly.
many of the regular attenders in our church don’t attend every. single. sunday.
life happens and it’s nearly impossible to have perfect church attendance.
and many of the regular attenders in our church are reading this blog and wondering, ‘is she talkin’ ’bout me?!’ 
please, no worries.
and some, who were regular attenders for a long time, no longer attend. 
again, no worries.
so we counted our sheep, wondering why they did not attend more often, and where did some of them go?
and we would plague ourselves with questions and counting… 
perhaps they grew tired of hearing Adam’s sermons or were irritated with the way I led worship one Sunday, or the songs I chose, or the way I parted my hair that day… or perhaps they were hurt by us, or someone else in our congregation… or perhaps we don’t know why. and this is okay.

does this mean once you visit our church you have to commit to a certain number of years together and sign up to attend all the events, drink the coffee and eat the donuts? no. 
does this mean the people who have left our church are going to hell? hell no!
since our churches birth in the year 2000, many people have entered our creaky glass doors, slobber-stained from our three year olds lips…some have stayed a while, some for a short time and some have walked out those glass doors, never to return again.
so if you’re there… we will hopefully notice. and if you’re not there, we will probably notice.
does this make us a horrible pastor / awesome pastors wife combo? no… but it certainly makes us human. 
graciously, the Lord turned our hearts affection back to Him alone.
we no longer count our sheep in competition with the church down the street.  
we know who we are called to be as a church and our identity is fully in the Lord Jesus ~ the True Shepherd.
we are counting our sheep because we care for them within our calling to Shepherd them.
the grass is not always greener on the other side. 
you have to beg the question ‘where [to which church] are you called?’
you have to listen to the answer with the intent to obey.
it is a continual commitment to consciously commit to Christ. 
and it takes a continual commitment to consciously commit to a church. 
it takes work to get your ass to any church, peeps. and believe you-me, i understand. on the off Sundays when i am not leading worship, i usually stroll in about 10:05am… a little late and a lot irritated with myself for being late. i have no excuse. sure, i have to motivate three small kids to get their rears in gear and get out the door and around the corner for our two-minute commute to church. oh, did i mention we live 1/8 of a mile from our church? and yes, some days we are still late. sad but true.
if you profess to be a follower of Christ, He is calling you to commitment. 
He calls us to commitment to Himself and to His bride ~ the church body. 
our walk with Him is a narrow road, filled with joy and pain, rejection and love, persecution and gain.
it is not so easy, but it is so rewarding.  
we want new sheep, not sheep from another field. 
we want committed sheep, not those accustomed to changing fields. 
we want sheep who will know the Shepherds voice. JESUS. 
we want humble sheep who will are willing to be led. 
we want hungry sheep who are called to graze with us.
we desire to see lives changed, new disciples committed to Christ Jesus and His church.
we hope if God has called you to a church, you will commit there and won’t hop around.
we pray you will hear the voice of the Lord and *know* His voice.
we look to see what the Father is already doing and join Him in that work. 
we are hungry for God’s word and want to grow and learn with those who called to our church {field}.
there are so many great churches in our town… and there are still so many seats in all of these churches yet to be filled ~ with people yet to hear about Jesus, and know that He loves them and to be committed to a church. 
so, we will not compete. we will commit. 
we will be true to who we are, as a fully human prone-to-mistakes pastor and his fully human {and awesome, also prone-to-mistakes} wife. 
we will pray for and shepherd those people God calls into our church.
we will stay true to who God has called Eastside Vineyard Church to be. 
and we will not have easter eggs falling from the sky. sorry
well. not really 😉  
In Him, Leslie 
*please note, this blog is not all-encompassing. nor i am addressing all of the circumstances for every “should i stay or should i go?” from my current church situation. it’s just a piece of our lives in ministry, so far…half written.
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2 thoughts on “counting sheep.

  1. Sherrie says:

    You could have written this almost verbatim about our little spot on the globe. 🙂 ( Except, we do join together with two others churches to have a huge Easter egg hunt the Saturday before Easter every year. Sorry.:/)We literally stopped counting sheep several years ago because it was feeling like such a game of nickles and noses. So we serve, worship, minister, obey – and let God bring whomever God will bring.Blessings,

    Like

  2. The Babs says:

    Amen Sherrie! I love that God has helped you and your husband in this area as well. God is so good! It's great you church joins together with others to have the Easter egg hunt – a great picture of community 🙂 Bless you!!

    Like

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