This is not just another article about the dying church…..or maybe it is.
This first week of Easter has been pretty sobering for me. I got some news – that I sort of knew was coming, but I didn’t want to hear. I got moved out of my comfort zone. And another health thing that I don’t need has crept into my life. I have to be honest, I had a bad day on Friday….feeling sorry for myself, dreading what I think might come true, and not really wanting any responsibility for any of it.
But as I wallowed in self-pity and despair, I remembered that It was LAST week that stuff really went wrong! I began to recall that it was LAST Friday that we entered the tomb. And that it was just this past Sunday that I was gloriously proclaiming and claiming the Resurrection. Really? I might have PROCLAIMED it, but have I really CLAIMED it?
Has the Church claimed it?
All we hear about these days is how bad things are for the Church. In the conference that I’m serving in, the small congregations are dwindling fast. Larger congregations are even starting to feel decline. But I ask, if we are truly resurrection people, if we truly claim the resurrection, then is the death of the Church in its current state a bad thing?
Sure, I’ll admit it is scary. But if we believe in the power of Jesus Christ, if we believe that we are called by him to live resurrected lives, then doesn’t something have to die first?
Look around you. You will see signs of resurrection everywhere. The flowers blooming in the spring. The new growth at the stump of a rose bush you thought was dead. Reconciliation between people who have been angry for some past remarks or indiscretions. Strangers coming to the aid of another stranger. People serving and working beside one another to bring change to a community. My list could go on and on and these are things I’ve just been seeing THIS week. The power of resurrection is a real and viable power at work in the world.
Except sometimes, within the walls of a church building, there are very little signs of resurrection power at work. Resurrection power often gets overlooked or pushed back for the latest fad or learning curve guaranteed to “grow the church.” Even within our own denominational structure, resurrection power is often invisible.
I believe that for this power to be fully visible, things need to change….even die. We’ve all heard it right? That as Christ’s followers we die to self….put others first….that our spiritual growth is a journey that calls us to sacrifice. We’ve heard it, but do we really understand it?
Are we willing to CLAIM it even when it means that something we hold dear may change….or dare I say die? It wasn’t Peter who “saved” over 3000 people on the day of Pentecost. It was the power of the resurrection working through the Holy Spirit and through the disciples. Mr. Wesley didn’t write the Book of Discipline so we would become so rule oriented that we dismissed loving relationships. That guide was written by a man working to change the church he loved so it could live into the power of the resurrection in every community.
Life means change and change means growth and/or death. As one who keeps her eyes on the RISEN CHRIST (most of the time!) I hope to continue to grow as I claim the power of resurrection in my life, in my church, and in my community. If the church is dying, well, that may well be the START OF SOMETHING NEW AND POWERFUL…but we have to be willing to let go of the carcass.
What carcasses are you holding on to that are keeping the power of resurrection at bay? What is it that you are afraid of? How can the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ give you strength?
Keep your eyes on the risen Lord and claim the gift of the power of resurrection. And folks, let’s stop talking about the “dying church” and start believing in and working together for the “resurrected church” as we focus on the Risen One.