This just in. Last month a person bought a $6.3 million island off the coast of Ireland. Evidently the buyers had been looking more than a year to find an island to call their own. This gem has 157 acres. It comes complete with one 6-bedroom home, two 2-bedroom homes, and two 1-bedroom cottages. The island boasts its own electricity, water, and sewage systems. Throw in three sandy beaches, a gym, and a helipad and you’ve got yourself quite a place. In these days of Covid panic, it is a self-encased paradise (with the obvious exception of fickle Irish weather).
I must admit, I am a bit jealous of this high net worth individual. What could be better than insulating one’s self against all the problems of the world?
We are tempted, all of us, to long for a life of self-sufficiency, of independence from the dangers and cries of the world. In fact, it is a good spiritual discipline to “retreat” to a physical or spiritual island once in a while. However, the purpose of a retreat is not to live there permanently, but to grow and strengthen ourselves for a return to this challenging world.
Sometimes our churches are prone to the same temptation, and the current pandemic has exacerbated it. We want our church to be an island, impenetrable to the anxieties and humdrum of the rest of society. We long to be insulated from the troubles around us. We believe that big bank accounts and beautiful buildings will protect us. When threatened we pull in our horns. We cut the expenses. We do anything to stay on the island. Survival becomes the mission. Making sure WE are OK is the focus.
Remember the words of our Lord from Luke’s gospel, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Churches don’t forget your mission. Don’t forget that there are worse things than using yourselves up in the quest to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It is through losing we find saving. It is through suffering and death we find resurrection.
The point is this—be in ministry, not in retreat. Invest in the gospel, not in the island. Trust God. All will be well.