I had a chance to have lunch with some minister friends this week and the conversation turned to congregational life: what’s up, what’s good, what’s bad. One of us is struggling with what to do when you’ve got 31 different languages spoken at your church. People who are living here in Canada but their heart, their soul is still in the mother country:
“No they don’t what to be deacons, or teach Sunday school or help plan anything. They are from (fill in country here).”
How can you ever get people to make this their home country, to make this their home congregation when they won’t emotionally unpack their bags? They’re just here, they don’t actually belong.
Another friend shared that a church he loves and has tried to help is down to twelve members and they are struggling to survive. It’s an awful way to live: trying not to die.
I know it’s easy for me to say, but a church that’s dying seems like an easy thing to deal with (but I know it’s not). Sell the building, give everything away and be the church anyway. If the building is that important to you then you’ve forgotten what it means to be the church in the first place. We are not a building, or a franchise of the Lord’s church. God’s purposes on earth will survive our incompetence. We are meant to serve the needs of the people in our communities: be the church instead of just owning a church building. Keeping church buildings open is a lousy legacy to leave to our children. No wonder they`re leaving.
The opposite of struggling to survive is struggling to imagine ourselves not succeeding. This is my struggle. How can I keep my church in touch with the fact that nothing we we are doing right now is going to last forever. We are temporal creatures who pass a short time here on earth, living together, laughing together and then we will move on to an eternity. Our Kindergarten class will be the teen class in less than eight years!
The only reason God has not taken us home the moment we became a Christian is because we have a job to do while we are here. We are to serve in the place of our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of His Spirit and not just play church!
Having a church building is not a sign of God’s satisfaction with us the same way that having an empty church is not a sign of God’s judgment. Keeping a program running is not what we were purchased with Christ’s blood for.
I think it would be a great exercise for the Lord’s church to sell everything they own as a church body and then deploy all the resources that they have in the service of the people around us. Would we end up doing some things differently? If so, let’s start doing those things right now.
If your church has 45 members and owns a building that seats 200. Why not sell the building and give the money to charity and start meeting in a community center near where you live?
I think if my church ‘started over’ we wouldn’t stay in the building we are in now. Maybe we should consider selling then? What do you think Tinternians? We would likely do some of the things we are doing now but in a location that is closer to where our people live: Women’s ministry, Children’s program, great Teen ministry, as well as some of the benevolent work we do. Maybe we would give up Life Groups. Maybe we would give up Adult Bible Study on Wednesday night.
My point is, maybe we should stop being satisfied with keeping buildings open and instead look at what we are doing to serve the community. We need to grow up in Christ and join in where the Holy Spirit is already at work. Growing deeper, not just wider. Then, if you ask to see a picture of my church I would show you this: