“Life is different now” was the theme of last month’s Rocky Mountain Conference Annual Meeting. Every step into the future takes us further from what we know. Like most mainline churches, ours is one of aging membership, fewer visitors, busier lives and fewer resources.
Here in Ogden, our church is also one of dedicated, faithful and committed people who love God, their community and the world. Ours is a church of awe-inspiring worship, hopeful mission and fun fellowship. Ours is a church in which we delight in one another’s company and in the company of the Holy Spirit. We have a bright future.
Many of the discussions at the annual meeting focused on what it takes to make a bright future. For instance, what do we do when folks want to attend the church and participate in the activities, even contribute with time and money, but do not want to become actual members. We could stop worrying about labels and just enjoy the community we build together. It sounds simple, but often people who already “belong” don’t appreciate when others seem to have less commitment. One idea was to offer a covenant every year that anyone could sign, attesting to each signer’s commitment for the next 12 months.
I also participated in a conversation about whether growth should be the aim of the church. One participant said, “We’ve been obsessed with growing. We’ve tried to lure young people. We’ve tried to be hip for people who don’t think we’re hip. And we’re still talking about the same old things.”
In many ways I think she is right. For a long time the mainline churches were frightened when the evangelical, nondenominational churches flourished while we shrank. We tried to copy them. We tried to be like them. We envied them. We trash-talked them.
It’s time to stop measuring ourselves against those churches. It’s time to start being ourselves – a warm, welcoming, God-loving community. And when we grow as a result, won’t that be nice!
In Christ’s love,