Are we asking the right Questions?

On Monday Austin Seminary said good bye to the Reverend John Evans with a gala event that produced tears, memories, and beautiful conversations. This institution will not be the same without him.

One such conversation was between Dr. David White and I. I shared with him my plans after graduation and mentioned the Pentecost post. He listened and said something to me that went something like this, “There is this church in DC that began to rethink its identity as a church. They asked themselves, have we served our purpose as a church? If so, how can we die and prepare the way for something new?”

Marvelous thought! Perhaps we are asking the wrong question as a church. Are we assessing our purpose as a church? If so, have we fulfilled our purpose or are we just hanging on? Why are we hanging on? What are we hanging on too?

I have said in the past that we are so afraid of dying that we are dead. What do we have to fear? In life and in death we are Christ’s. Do we really believe this? Has the denomination become an idol? I wonder…

We proclaim that we are a Reformed Church always Reforming. Well than, where is the reforming? Is it time to set the ground for something new? If so, then how do we till the soil and plant the seeds for new life as a church? If not, then how do we focus upon our mission, our purpose? In this we must understand our purpose and all work towards it. This is where I think we have staled on “issues.”

We are in a season of change. We are looking for a new moderator to inspire and lead us to change. Whoever is called to guide us as a denomination, we will all have to work together. I pray it stops being about power and the dominate conversation turns to soil and seed. In this we can only watch as the vineyard grows and wait to be called to harvest.

4 thoughts on “Are we asking the right Questions?

  1. timothyblodgett says:

    That is a dead on question. I have no idea how we could have stopped asking that question or at least put so little emphasis on it. Part of it seems to do with the consumer versus missional outlook. We had so many ‘country club’ churches, especially in the Presbyterian world, that we forgot about the world on the other side of our walls. The refocusing to a more missional direction goes a long way to changing that mentality. I identify as well with your comment about being afraid of death. The church I pastor was on a slow downward spiral for twenty years, was living a dying faith and mentality for most of that time, and finally came face to face with the decision to die (close the doors and sell out to a developer), but chose life instead. The church in the midst of this struggle sold their manse, a bold move, to fund having a full time pastor for at least three years for the first time in twenty years (incidentally in a presbytery with a high minimum salary). Now we have not gone in any radical directions, but we are asking ourselves constantly ‘what is our purpose?’ ‘how can we do this better?’ ‘how is God calling us to reach out to this community?’ Transformation has begun to take roots and connections are being made to the community. I hope it continues and happens in more places. I think we let death win too much.

  2. We do let death win too much, including when we allow shamblingly undead churches to sit and fester in the ‘burbs. The way a church renews itself is by allowing itself to die. Not a “let’s sell off the building and property so folks can build more McMansions” death, but by dying to it’s former self.

    You’ve got to let newness in if you want to be renewed.

  3. So how do we let newness in?

    Is this renewal going to start at the top or can we renew in the congregational level? It is my opinion that there is too much suspicion of the top from many to renew as a denomination in its current form.

    David, how do we die to our former self?

    I feel you both on this (Tim & David) you two are out there and my candy ass is dreaming a little dream as I write this shizznat.

  4. timothyblodgett says:

    Grassroots in the congregation seems to be most effective, but I would say a lot of the ‘missional church’ discussion and movement is coming from above in the denomination and then the churches are grabbing hold. I mean it is an odd kind of symbiotic relationship.

    You pose the question of ‘how do we die to our former self?’ One of the steps that Greystone took before I was here, but that I continued was owning up to the failures and successes of the past. There were (good) reasons mainline churches were filled at one time. There are also (very good) reasons there has been a decline. Naming those failures (sins) and overcoming them through Christ with grace and hope did wonders here. True transformation. If I am ever quoted or remembered for anything, I want it to be this statement “Faith is believing God’s grace more than our brokenness.” I truly believe if we have more preachers and leaders who are competent and “not boring” (Anderson), I think we will be better off and all this death talk will be overcome.

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