A congregation of the United Church of Canada
“Our church suits ‘us’ very well.”
I imagine I pushed more than a few buttons with last Sunday’s sermon. I sent you away to ponder a paraphrase of Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save their church will lose it, and those who lose their church for my sake will find it. (If you haven’t heard/read the sermon yet, you can find it by clicking here.) Thinking in human terms, it’s obvious why we’d want to save our church. We like it! It suits us. It’s comfortable. We find spiritual nurture and growth, ways to live justly and love others, and deep mutuality and support at Faith. Those are the hallmarks of a great church – spirituality, ‘justuality’, mutuality – love, love, love. (No, ‘justuality’ isn’t a word – yet!) So why would Jesus seem to be saying that we shouldn’t ‘save our church’? It’s a good one.
I continue to hear a lot of angst among our church members. Despite our presence online and our significant viewership on YouTube, there is a palpable sense among the in-person gang that Faith is in trouble. Finances are stretched (despite strong financial stewardship from identified givers), building maintenance costs have elevated (understandable after 26 years), and our in-person demographics have been trending smaller and ‘older’ for quite some time. Covid has definitely left its mark on churches.
Our church suits ‘us’ very well. The angst is around why others don’t seem to be drawn to it the way we are? Part of that could just be awareness. To that end, a couple of really lovely strategies are underway. One is the ‘September Startup Sunday’ event on the 17th – designed to attract both church-folk and neighbourhood folk into a day of renewed spirit and energy to launch a new season of church-life. Advertising is going out, signs are being put up, social media posts are being posted – all in an effort to let folks know that Faith United is a wonderful place. Alongside this, a door-hanger campaign is being planned where we’ll go out into Courtice neighbourhoods and leave invitational info-cards on people’s doors. Advertising helps with awareness!
Some hard questions linger: What if advertising and awareness alone aren’t the answer? What if society has shifted even further away from looking to churches for their dose of spirituality, justuality, and mutuality (assuming they feel the need to engage in those things)? Or what if the ways that we do them aren’t aligning with the ways people might want to explore their spirituality, justuality, and mutuality? What do we do if people don’t respond to our warm efforts to be inclusive and welcoming?
Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save their church will lose it, and those who lose their church for my sake will find it.
If I had the answer, I’d pull it out of my pocket and solve the church’s problems. I simply don’t know what to do. But I do know what ‘not’ to do – putting all our effort into ‘saving’ the church rather than ‘being’ the church. (I’m not saying that’s what we’re doing – I’m simply acknowledging that it happens in churches all the time.)
Christ’s church is by no means over. Whether the ways we like to ‘do church’ are going to survive or thrive in the future – I just don’t know. I think as long as we pour our hearts into loving One, Others, and One Another (love, love, love), and are open and daring enough to let go of things that may hinder sharing those things – even if it means letting go of things we love – that Faith has a faithful future.
For whoever wants to save their church will lose it, and those who lose their church for my sake will find it.
Sometimes the ‘way of Jesus’ is very challenging! (Click here for a video version of Noticings)