Monday I made the mistake of reading the attendance and giving report for our church in the past two weeks. Across the board our numbers were dismal, and everyone knows church is a numbers game. The previous week our offering was $418. The previous day I preached to a slim gathering of 64. The sermon was about money and God's reign. How ironic.
I slouched in my chair. I scanned the spines of my bookshelves, looking for inspiration from church growth gurus. Better yet, I decided to pray.
Perhaps it was my posture or the topic, but my prayer echoed the outskirts of Gethsemane. Rather than sleeping, I decided to walk through the sprawling town that is Leesburg, IN. As I prayed, God made it clear that repentance was a central topic.
"Help this town repent," I asked God. Recently, the town was guilty of political foment, all-you-can-eat fried fish, and littering. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
I prayed repent from the church to the fish fry pits, from the pits to the elementary school, down the alley and past an old man. I prayed repent from the Post Office to the National City Bank and across State Route 15.
A town worker interrupted my prayer. He called me over to his truck and rolled down his window. "You're right about this town," he began. "It's evil. There are evil people here."
I prayed repent over his truck. "It's funny that you mention that," I said, "because I've just been praying repentance for this town."
"Let someone else do it," he suggested.
"Do you know what repent means?"
He gave an uncertain nod. His wife is Catholic; he's a Bears fan.
I prayed repent over our conversation. "Repent literally means to change your mind. To alter your thinking."
"That's not going to happen in this town," he concluded swiftly.
"That's why I'm praying it," I respond, grinning.
We parted ways. He returned to his work, unconvinced, unchanged. I returned to the church refreshed, repentant. God reigns.