This weekend I was the appointed teacher for an Advance Lay Speaking class for people in our area. This program has become about much more than just speaking or preaching, but instead is a class about being a leader within the church.
One thing I learned from our great class of 23 people is that many of us, in mainline congregations, face similar challenges. Not the least of which is an increasingly common refrain about congregations that simply do not want to move, adapt, or change.
This concept isn’t unknown to Pastor’s and other church leaders, but, I’ve also operated under the assumption that people live in this place because either they do not know any other way to live, or two they’ve attempted before but always been disappointed. So, if you can help them learn AND help them bare some fruit everything should move along. Right? Well, apparently not.
Many of the 23 shared they felt that a significant portion simply did not want to engage at all and hoped only that the church be around long enough to bury them. Honestly, this is what people have said. So, when it came up I launched into a little speech that I confess I’ve given before.
Who are we to let it die? Most of our churches represent the investment of 2, 3, 4 or more generations of people. Decades of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears to build. Who are we, to decide for all of them, that it all is coming to a end on our watch? Even if living on means living is a slightly different form? Who are we to watch it die?
If we are honest none of our churches look exactly as they did when they were founded. Mine, in the beginning, spoke German. We don’t’ now. We sang different hymns, we did different activities, people wore very, different cloths. Change has been a part of the Christian experience from the beginning. Jesus was nothing if not an agent of change!
So, again, who are we to say we are willing to let it all go away because we’ve run out of the ability to do the very thing that has been our lives blood for nearly 2000 years?
There are many legitimate reasons for a church to close. Apathy is not one of them. We’ve all inherited from those who have come before us. We all stand on floors and under ceilings that a multitude of people are responsible for building. Why let it vanish, be sold for scrap, just because we can’t bear the thought of it looking a little different.
Who are we to let it die? Who are we to deny it the chance to be resurrected?