He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,2 Timothy 1:9
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but Mondays I tend to find myself reflecting on church. However, while this morning’s post is informed by another good Sunday, this is more about “Going to Church” as a general subject, particularly in response to three things.
- The decline many congregations are experiencing
- Rebekah consulting on a Zoom call
- Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace”
I often hear talk about, “How do we get people to come back?” (post-pandemic), why “people ought to be in church“, and “what is keeping them away?“
But The Church not only needs to be thinking “post pandemic,” but also “post-Christian” when it comes to the interface with the church and this culture.
During my lifetime, going to church has shifted from being the natural, expected, routine behavior of the majority of Americans (most churches well attended), to something only practiced by a minority of people (many churches in decline and closing).
Given that reality, here are the real questions (or some of them) each church needs to be asking: Why do we even exist? What are we supposed to be doing? Would this community even notice if we disappeared? Exactly why is it we want more people to show up? How would it benefit the life of any individual or family to be here? If it is important then how are we communicating any of this to the people we are missing?
Other than posing these important questions, all I’m going to do today is make a couple of points:
Two Key Ideas:
ONE: First, from Rebekah’s “consulting” meeting with a church in another city. There is no magic pill, there is no proprietary “programming”, there is no “this is the music the style the look the tone that’s going to get them in the door.” There is only Jesus, and God’s people already at the church who either present the transformational love of Christ with grace and authentically or not.
For Rebekah and me, our experience has always been that of seeing renewal, growth, transformation, encouraging attendance numbers, and dynamic mission. Consequently, throughout her career other churches have consistently wanted to talk with Rebekah about what’s going on: “What’s your secret?” But it is no secret what God can do; and – most importantly – real life looks completely different in every congregation. Trinity looked nothing like First Brandon looked nothing like WFPC. There was/is no franchisable template that can be overlayed onto any situation; there is only the Good News of Jesus and an authentic invitation into the grace of New Life.
TWO: Then, from Philip Yancey. Toward the close of his book about grace Yancey tells the story of serving communion. He simply describes some of the people who make their way to the front of the church to receive the bread and the wine. He introduces them, looking through the lens of their brokenness, their sin, their pain, their unworthiness, their need of Grace.
Yancey offers church as a dispenser of grace.
This is it:
Here is the bottom line. There is enough of falseness, bombast, lecturing, judgment, criticism, polarization, browbeating, posturing, performance, narcissism, finger-pointing, and – Lord knows – politics in this world without such un-grace poisoning the one place where God stands, arms wide open, inviting us home.
Why do we exist? To connect people with God’s gift of grace, like handing out sandwiches in paper bags to the hungry, only the idea is better described as standing under a waterfall of it.
How are we communicating this mission to the people (thousands upon thousands of them within sight of our doors) who stand in need of grace? Now that is the key conversation to be having where your church meets.
That’s enough for a Monday morning. But please be challenged, be inspired to share, and be transformed by the love of Jesus to the extent that grace becomes your brand as a Christian, and as a worshipping community – DEREK