Easter is the season when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, when we celebrate that in Christ the grave is conquered, and that new life has begun, is happening, and will come to completion. I have been thinking about new life. Not just the new life of us as individuals, but the new life of us as a people. Even the new life of our church community.
As our church skews more toward the older side of the age spectrum, we need a renewed life of sorts. To be honest, the goal is not actually more people. The goal must be a renewed sense of mission and ministry and, hopefully, one of the effects would be a growth in numbers. And one of these places where new life is breathed into a church is to begin to refocus on what the church does, and so this column is a bit of a continuation from last month.
The program-based church is a thing of the past, and a relic of the past. More and more programs won’t sustain a church into the future (to be honest it never really sustained a church, it only had the appearance of sustenance). So what does this mean for us?
We can learn that we are of value not because of what we do, but because we are children of God. And it is out of this deep and profound understanding that the way we live our lives is different. We do different things not because that’s the goal, but because that is the fruit that comes from the transformed tree. We don’t give of our time or our treasure in order to keep programs running or to keep the organization solvent, we are called to this because we are called to live lives of gratitude to God for God’s grace and to participate deeper into the body of Christ, the church.
This will involve thinking differently about our ministry, what we do together, and why we do it. This will involve some grief, but also new beginnings. It will involve letting some things go so that we can embrace others. This will involve effort, commitment, and energy for all of us. Most of all, it invites us to be in intentional community with others, which is a commitment to be sure, it is also a bit challenging, but it is also a true blessing. The journey will have challenges, but it is a worthwhile journey. Because on the other end there will be a stronger church and a more meaningful ministry.
What if our church is not so much a place where one can come and do? What if it is a place where one can be? Where one can share love and receive love, where one can care for one another and receive care, where one can accept others and find acceptance themselves. What if it is a place where the very essence of our being is changed? And part of sharing love, caring for one another, and accepting one another is the giving of ourselves—our time, our talents our treasure. But this flows out of our changed being; it flows out of a changed essence. And so it is not so much about giving or doing out of obligation, but giving and doing out of love and care for one another. Rebirth, new life, never comes without a bit of pain, a bit of discomfort, a bit of uncertainty, but they are the signs of new life which is to come.
With deep and abiding love,