Last night a church died. Like most terminal patients, it had been ill for some time. While exact cause of death is unknown the suspected culprits are fatigue, complacency, along with a bit of guilt and despair. Having held on with little life left for many years, left without any other options, they gave up the ghost.
The church is survived by a diverse yet now fractured family. Unity seems gone; the members are left with few options. They can band together and join another church that suits only a few of them or they can leave the family and search for a new one.
While the news of this death will not affect the majority of the community, the legacy of this congregation, while maybe not far reaching, has profoundly impacted the lives of many.
The casualties of this death were many– myself included. I am grieving and do not know how long it will take to heal. Having grown up as a minister’s child I grew accustomed to moving from church to church. My husband and I had thought we found a home– a family to grow with, live with and now, much too soon, die with. There was all this talk of the Kingdom, and the greater good and the selfishness of holding onto a building. No one seemed to hear our heart. We’re not concerned about the building– it’s the loss of our family. When it was brought up, that possibly the church we are to “partner” with would not suit everyone (demographically, preaching/teaching style, location etc…..) the response was “well, go somewhere else.” Perhaps it’s naivete, but what I heard was, “your part of the family isn’t that important, so if you want to leave, go.” It’s not about where we are, to me it’s whether or not we’re together– and inevitably we won’t be.
It seems ironic, that for my last paper this semester I wrote about the transformation that comes to a church when they seek to serve the community as God leads them. That is what is happening to us. Our “church” (building) will be used to serve a niche for the vibrant college community in our town. We are in essence doing exactly what my thesis stated that the church should do, but I didn’t expect it to actually displace us. And logically, I know this happens everyday. Unfortunately, many churches across the nation are closing their doors everyday… why should we be any different?
My family, while not blood, is broken. So what are we to do? We’re back at square one, making a list of what’s important to us in a church. Hopefully, I will be able to get over my tendency toward depression and extreme anti-social behavior and go find a new home. Below is my preliminary list:
1) Bible-based, exegetical preaching– while we can learn much through our own devotion, we depend on leadership and teaching based on scripture.
2) Love for children– we have two, 4-years and 1-year. Our four year old astounds me everyday with his insight into God and his love for us. I think, some days, that Corbin will be the one to lead a great ministry, not me. The point is that we want to be somewhere that will encourage and disciple his young faith.
3) A Public Theology- it’s important that where we go is serving the community. We want to be amongst a community of believers that actively takes their faith into the world through outreach and active evangelism.
4) A place for us– it’s important to us that we are not only attendees of the church but that we are actively involved. Whatever church we are at, is my outlet for all I’m learning in seminary and “practicing,” you might say, for whatever ministry God will lead my husband and I too.
5) A diverse congregation- a community of all believers does not pigeon-hole their focus on only youth, or seniors, or young families, singles or whatever. Our differences in age, race and gender were gifts from God and I believe it was his intent for us to learn from each other.
UP FOR NEGOTIATION:
Size, Location (building/geographic), Worship style, Liturgy and Sacraments
What do you think? What is important to you in a church?