By: Conference Minister Diane Weible
Sometimes when I talk to people about “the church today”, I hear a lot of concern about the future. Sometimes I hear that the church is dying. Sometimes I hear people say they need help figuring out how to get more people to come to church and more offering in the offering plate.
Many of you have heard me talk about how the church of the mid-20th century was very different from the church today. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the church was the center of a community and going to church on a Sunday was something that for many people was expected. There wasn’t much that competed with the Sunday church hour—stores were closed and scheduling a soccer game for a Sunday morning was unthinkable. Churches opened their doors and people came in.
If that is your definition of church, then I agree. Church is dying.
But, the church I’m excited about is not a church that is dying. It is the church that still opens its doors every Sunday but the doors are opened so that people who come inside can then go back out and do the work that needs to be done. (Or, people come in because the needs of the community are being met inside the church.) That church is a church that is in a process of re-birth. I am excited about the future of this beloved church.
This week I attended an Impact Gathering sponsored by the United Church of Christ. Local church pastors, conference and denominational leaders, and ecumenical partners gathered to talk about supporting new ministries across our denomination. There was a lot of excitement in the room. One conversation at my small group table was about how we meet the needs of our community by bringing our faith into the community. There is no longer a set formula for what that looks like. It could look like what we call a “traditional church” but it may not. There might be a building but there might not. It may begin with what is already in place or it may be something completely new. We talked about how current churches may be mentor churches for new ministries—not to replicate these churches but to start a re-birth of something completely new.
It’s an exciting time for sure. The possibilities are endless. The conversation that is starting will continue. I would love to hear your thoughts and dreams about what God is calling the church to be because we are better and stronger when we have these kinds of conversations together.