I recently attended a meeting to hear the conference’s plan for new church starts. Some of it was very heartening, and other pieces were disheartening, especially some of the comments made about closing churches.
What the bishop has instructed the cabinet and the congregational development people to know is that he will not close a church which has two people who are in love with Christ. While that’s great in theory, what does that actually look like? How do we know they are in love with Christ? And is this really a viable stance to take? Certainly we want to keep these people connected, but does that need to happen in the church building?
I have just started reading The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist. I don’t fully know Groeschel’s argument yet, but can’t help but want to try and apply it to this situation. Aren’t we an Easter people? We are so afraid of death? Isn’t it okay to let a church die so that it can be reborn? We are so fundamentally hooked up in the support and structure of our buildings, that they are becoming our God. If the remnants of a congregation want to continue gathering and forge something new, that’s great, and we should encourage that. But maybe the best move is to get out of their current building, and start over again in someone’s home and then build back up. Why do we have to retain the building? Wasn’t the tomb empty? Why do we want to hold onto it?
Now, I know that congregations “love” their church, by which they mean they their building, but that is part of the problem. The first question the bishop or DS should ask when someone says they love their church and don’t want to lose it, is when was the last time each person invited someone to church? If they are not inviting people to church then I wonder how much they truly love it, because don’t you want others to participate in the things you love? And if they claim that they love Christ then they also have to be inviting people, because that is what Christ commanded us to do.
If we are not inviting people to church can we truly claim that we love Christ or our church? Otherwise we end up more like the women at the original ending of Mark’s gospel where they flee in terror and don’t tell anyone what they have seen. This is Mark’s perfect example of what discipleship should not look like