‘O my Lord, what shall I do?’

Jul 14, 2016 by

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According to church researcher Ed Stetzer, more than 40 percent of Americans say they go to church weekly, however, it turns out that less than 20 percent of them are actually in church. That means that more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more exciting things to do on weekends. Not only that, Stetzer found that between 4,000-7,000 churches close their doors every year. That’s appalling to me because if there is any place in existence that should never close its doors, it’s the church.

Additionally, Ryan Sheehan found that close to 3,500 people leave the church every day. That calculates to 24,500 people a week, or 1.2 million people a year. That’s alarming, because the faith community has always been in the forefront of improving life on this Earth. If we look locally, we see that four of the six major hospitals in Bakersfield were established by people of faith. Also, the first public school in America was the Boston Latin School (still in operation), was founded by people of faith, and it led to the establishment of some of our major universities, which were also founded by faith.

Some faith communities believe the church is the pillar of truth, and that is good. I personally believe that the church is the house of the Lord, the place where God resides, our fortress and refuge in the time of trouble.

People go to church for a variety of reasons. Some go out of habit and tradition; they have always gone and will always go until the end of life. Others go to seek community, friendship and support. There are people who go to church just to hear the message because it is the fuel they will need to make it through the upcoming week, Still others go to share their particular gifts with the body by participating in activities and auxiliaries. All of these are very good reasons.

When I was a little girl, it seemed like some of the women came to church to see who could wear the biggest and most flowery hat — but women don’t really do that anymore!

We have discovered many reasons for going to church, but what are the reasons for people dropping out of church? That is the million-dollar question, and I have been wrestling with it for several years. If we ever needed the church before, we sure do need it now.

In times of confusion, distress and terror, some old Negro Spirituals often can serve as healing balms. (And I am not ashamed of the word “Negro;” it’s just a Spanish word for black.) In any case, I am thinking of the spiritual that says, “Hush, hush, somebody’s calling my name…o my Lord, o my Lord, what shall I do?” The song continues, “It sounds like Jesus, somebody’s calling my name…O my Lord, o my Lord, what shall I do?” This song appeared in the original presentation of the TV miniseries Roots. It’s on YouTube, and I encourage people to listen to it.

We will experience an epiphany when we realize what each of us has to do to bring the kingdom of God on earth, the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of love. We need that action posthaste.

Brenda Isaacs is a retired Mennonite pastor, author and part-time teacher in the Court School System who lives in Bakersfield, Calif.

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