It never changes. At every event, at every workshop, in so many of our sanctuaries and board rooms the conversation is all the same. Seemingly daily new books are published which contain some version of a response to the same conversation.
“The Church is Dying! What do we do? What’s next? How will we make it?”
Congregational “death” and its subsequent “transformation” have become the buzzwords of the Ecclesiastical enterprise in which we live, breath, move, and work. For so many, the conversations about what’s coming next has become the ONLY conversation in which the Church is engaging.
“What we are doing is no longer working….something has to change….now.”
Wait, what? What we are doing isn’t working? Says who? How do we judge what is “working” and what is not? On what criteria do we base our assertions that the Church is dying? Please, do not accuse me of being naive. I know the numbers and the statistics. I know worship attendance is down. I know that for many churches congregational giving is not at a level to provide institutional stability. I know that buildings are closing and that many pastors are being compelled to work two or three jobs in order to support their families AND their call. I know that Sunday morning is no longer “Church time” in so many communities. So if it is on these standards that we are judging the viability of the Church then yes, the Church is dying.
Of course, if it is on these standards that we are judging the Church then the Church is actually already dead. The good news, of course, is that the One who breathed us into being and who called us into intentional community does not judge the Church by these standards.
So can we just stop for a minute?
Raise your hand if you enjoy and appreciate being told over and over and over again that what you are doing is not enough? This is essentially the narrative that is being projected onto the Body of Christ. Sounds harsh, but its true. And you know, just like a child who is continually criticized by an overbearing parent or a spouse who is continually scorned by their partner, after a while, we begin to believe this narrative that we are not enough.
Wouldn’t it be brutally and bitterly ironic that what is actually “killing” the Church is not the changing culture or the ever-increasing reliance on digital communication but instead the continual criticism and abuse we impress onto ourselves? What if the Church is actually killing itself?
So I think it is time for an intervention.
What would it be like if we stopped all these other conversations? What would it be like if we put away, just for a little bit (it will be there whenever we want to pick it back up) the narrative that the Church is no longer viable and began to pick up a different narrative? What would it be like if we began to share different stories? What if we were given (and then followed) an invitation to discover how God IS working through the local church and the people who exist within it?
Shouldn’t we be encouraging one another? Shouldn’t we be celebrating what is happening in our churches? Shouldn’t we be less focused on what will be and much more focused on what is?
Church, listen. Please listen. Something’s gotta give. We have to find a different narrative and a different starting place for conversation. We have to begin to re-build our own idea of self-worth and self-image. We have to allow ourselves to be reminded that we are created in the image of God and that even with all it’s faults, the Church is the best example we have of the Kingdom of God.
So can we just stop for a minute? Can we just take a breath, step back, and hear that what we are doing is enough? Doing so might seem weird, but it’s time.
Rev. Aaron Todd serves as the Minister for Education at First Christian Church-Midwest City, OK . Among other things, he focuses on youth, children, young adult, and family ministry. He is married to Debra, who is also a Disciples pastor, and together they have a 3 year old son named Zach and a precious baby boy named Josh. In addition to their human children, they have a 5 year old dog named Amos (named after the prophet). Check out his blog,