I have just read another book about the “life span of congregations.” Granted, there are some points worth noting. But the main thing that sticks in my mind is this: churches have natural life spans. They are born. They grow up. Then they die. Once a Church enters into “decline” that means it is dying. The priest’s goal should be to help that congregation “die well.” Since this message of fatalistic death became in vogue, there has been a general sense that the death of our denomination, one declining congregation at a time, is assured. It is in the natural order of things.
What puzzles me is that pastoral theologians keep saying such rubbish when anyone who has spent any time in the Church knows better. There are countless stories of Churches that were in decline but found a new direction, often under new leadership, and rebounded to greater vitality than ever before. And we all know good and well that plenty of churches have been around for centuries. The whole notion of life spans for churches sounds as if they have a “use by” label and need to be tossed out after the expiration date. It just isn’t so and we all know that.
So I am grateful to a priest I met recently who showed me this book he is excited about: My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians In The 21st Century by Gregg Garrett. I have just ordered it and hope to share more about it soon. http://www.amazon.com/My-Church-Not-Dying-Episcopalians/dp/0819229342/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429628066&sr=8-1&keywords=my+church
I am equally excited about the rediscovery of discipleship as the core mission of the Church, meaning we are here to guide and support people who want to follow Jesus and experience new life in him. So I am looking into The Restoration Project by Christopher Martins as a new/ old model for changing lives. http://www.amazon.com/My-Church-Not-Dying-Episcopalians/dp/0819229342/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429628066&sr=8-1&keywords=my+church
So could we please stop humming the death march and live into Marching In The Light Of God?