“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But, if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There are 28 churches in the Presbytery of Wyoming. Of these 28, I estimate that at least 50% of them will not survive more than ten years without some significant dying to “the ways we’ve been doing it” and rising to some new form of being church. Of the remaining churches, maybe 1 or 2 are growing spiritually and numerically, and in influence and impact in their community. Few if any are truly making Christ-followers. I am not being critical. This is the new normal for the Presbytery of Wyoming churches and for all the churches in the U.S.
Recently, I was meeting with a Pastoral Nominating Committee training them for their search for a new pastor. One of them said it so perspectively, “We are ten funerals away from the death of this church.”
I don’t sometimes like reality. I want to deny it sometimes and go on living like I am now. Yet, reality is reality. Sometimes it is a wakeup call.
Considering that life goes on and we keep living the same way and doing the same things we’ve been doing for a while, what do we do?
- Give up and let the church close?
- Keep on doing what we are doing and go into a hospice mode?
- Wake up to the reality and go back to sleep?
- Wake up, stay awake, die to “We’ve always done it that way” or “We’re comfortable with the way things are” or “We’re scared of the conflict it may produce”, learn some new ways of being the church, the body, the presence of Jesus, in our community and rise to new life?
We don’t need to jump from what we’ve been doing to a completely new way of being church overnight or within a year. Let’s begin small and take incremental and deliberative steps. Let’s discover what “the spiritual but not religious” people need in a faith community and adapt? Let’s go into our neighborhoods and listen to people and build relationships. Let’s learn about what each of the five generations in our communities values in worship and spiritual formation and decide how we need to die so we can bear more fruit.
There is too much of Jesus that is alive in us. The outer shell of the seed needs to die. The form the church has been needs to die, so the kernel can sprout new life for the next generations to come.
Heartful and Hopeful,