The CHURCH, capital C, is at a crossroad.
I love the CHURCH.
Many churches in the United States and around the world are declining.
Even so, the story is not over.
Rather than looking at the declining statistics as a diagnosis of impending death, I see it as an open door to determine what the CHURCH needs to do. Of course, I’ve heard many opinions.
BUT. (Yes, a big BUT).
In my view, the value of community is key. Community means relationship. When all is said and done, the meaning of life for humanity is to be in a relationship of love with God and one another.
If, I were speaking in a room of church leaders, a collective sigh would most likely be heard. Building community could be perceived as one more thing to add to the already burdensome to-do-list. The truth be known, many leaders are overwhelmed, feeling as if their church is a “sinking ship.” It’s a lot of work to keep it from going completely under.
Because. Some churches do go under and close their doors. No one wants a church to die.
I’ve sat in multiple discipleship discussions and workshops that teach to build community through community groups or “small” groups. I agree to a point.
I believe there is power in the whole church forming into a relational community of faith rather than becoming a smoothly run organization of many groups. In my view, there is a profound difference. Even so, I know first hand that building a cohesive large community is a daunting task, especially for bigger churches.
In all the staff meetings I’ve attended over the past decades, we never talked about the formation of community. I think we took our community for granted as if, it had always been present and would sustain itself. Here’s the thing . . . the pressing and very real problems of the budget, declining attendance, problems with people, and the need for the next best series . . . takes an inordinate amount of time and attention. These problems create a need for leaders to strategize and implement ways to keep things upright in order to sustain the community; however, it leaves little time or energy to build or develop the community.
So . . . this has made me wonder what would happen if church leaders invested more of their time and abilities to develop a relational community of faith . . . rather than to solely focus on the pressing and urgent needs. I have not been sure it’s possible.
Yes, I know that nothing is impossible WITH God. No worries. The thing is . . . I’ve been a leader in the organized church for a long time . . . so, I know the depth and width of the pressing and urgent problems.
As a church planter, I’ve seen the CHURCH from a new perspective. When RDC first began a year ago, we were meeting together; however, we were not a community. What I’ve learned so far is nothing necessarily new; however, each lesson is an important piece of developing and growing a church into a faith community.
- A work of the Spirit of God, i.e., a miracle is needed.
- A key value of community needs to be repeatedly stated as well as experienced.
- An intentional ongoing movement, rather than a task to be accomplished, takes constant faith and consistent work by many.
- A safe place for individuals to risk honesty and authenticity doesn’t just happen, it must be repeatedly demonstrated and proven by the core group.
- A decision to give time and space to grow organically, letting go of the worry and concern of numbers has to happen. To be honest, this is the hardest element for me; I’ve been trained to think of numbers as success or failure.
Of course, these line items only occur through an ongoing commitment to pray as well as a sacrificial willingness to be a part of the answer to prayer. RDC has been praying specifically and simply, “God will you make us into a community of faith for a hundred years or more through your Spirit?”
Something surprising happened this last Sunday. I still am surprised. Why is it that when you and I pray and believe, we are surprised when there’s an answer?
A RDC family has been faced with one of their beloved going through the dying process. I’ve been praying for the family as many others have also. I stood at the back of the sanctuary, as I always do, shaking hands and speaking to individuals. When an individual explained a very hard situation that the family was trying to manage, I knew the Spirit of God was telling me to change what we could change for them. I had no idea of how we could. RDC is new, small, and has limited resources.
I called a RDC leader, who felt the same way. We texted others. The problem was solved in less than an hour. All the resources and needs were covered. I can only explain it by saying the Spirit of God has been binding us together through love, which caused a generous and miraculous response of love to the family.
When you get down to it, what really matters in a faith community is love. I don’t know exactly how our story will unfold; it’s an adventure, that’s for sure. I do know that our story is about love and LOVE WINS. –Kerrie
Written by Kerrie Carlisle Palmer © 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED