November 3, 2011

     Traveling across the District during this Charge Conference season I have heard many conversations about the economic challenges facing in our churches.  It is not surprising therefore that when I attend conference meetings, one of the main topics of conversation is the economic challenge facing our conference.  If the local churches are struggling the inevitable fallout is that the conference is struggling.  Everywhere there is talk of scarcity, budget shortfalls, unpaid apportionments, staff and salary reductions, questions about our future. 

     While we have to address those issues because they are real and immediate, it is disturbing that we have more conversations about a decline in giving than we do a decline in membership and worship attendance.  While we search for ways to teach stewardship and decrease budgets, I have always found the most effective way to increase giving and meet budgets is to grow the church.  We should be far more disturbed about the lack of confessions of faith in our churches than the lack of giving.  Many of our churches are working hard, and rightly so, to audit rolls, correct numbers, and take off inactive members.  We do need to know where we actually stand.  But, are we investing the same energy into our efforts to reach new people?  We are ready to entertain new ways of raising money and carrying on our ministry with less money, but are we as ready to entertain new ways to worship to appeal to unchurched and younger adults, new ways to open our doors to the community, new ways to share the gospel?  I would venture so far as to say it is not the economy that is killing our churches.  In many places we have just gotten too comfortable with our church the way it is.  Many of our churches have never decided that we wanted to grow (and in so doing have decided that we don’t).  Too many of us have no passion to be intentional about meeting new people, and building relationships with people who are unchurched.  Most of us don’t know the neighbors three doors down and sometimes even those who live next door.  After twenty plus years of serving in the local church and never being out and about on Sunday morning, I have been shocked traveling from church to church to see how many people are at Wal-Mart and restaurants on Sunday morning.  Maybe we are in the wrong place on Sunday morning.  Undoubtedly the greeter at Wal-Mart has a better chance of sharing the gospel with someone who doesn’t know Jesus than we do in the church.  We can no longer operate with a “build it and they will come” strategy in our local churches.

     Our mission is the same as it has always been, “Go therefore into all nations and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.”  Could it be that our financial struggles are simply the result of having lost sight of what we are to be about?


Leave a Reply