In a recent gathering discussing the future of the Presbyterian Church, in light of all that ails us, one colleague said positively, “You know, this is a great time in the life of the Presbyterian Church, because everyone who comes to church on Sunday morning comes because he or she has chosen to do so. That’s the only reason anyone comes now.”
Clearly there no longer are any benefits that derive from being a member of a church or synagogue or some other religious organization. What has always been purely voluntary, in the new century has become totally optional.
Think about it. Everybody who comes to a Presbyterian church on a Sunday morning is there because he or she has chosen to be there. And to get to church one frequently has to drive by Starbucks, a variety of entertainments and a slew of retail establishments with doors open for customers. It takes a lot more commitment to get to church on Sunday morning than it used to when you look at the alternatives.
Another participant opined that there are plenty of folks around who used to become Presbyterians, but no longer show up. Why? he asked: because we’re perceived either to be boring or irrelevant. We’re just not cutting it, he said.
That may not be all of it but it surely must be a big part of it. If the church is not alive and inviting, people won’t come. As a group we Presbyterians are pretty set in our ways and, sadly, many who visit our churches leave without ever having been spoken to by a single person than the minister as they go out the door.
Because of who we are, what we espouse and the way we conduct ourselves, Presbyterians will always be a small body of believers in the larger church population. But those who freely choose to come are some of the most gifted, talented folks in Christendom. And God’s basic way is to make much out of little.
As the New Year begins, how about looking at opportunities unlimited at the doorstep of every church rather than dwelling on the present deficiencies and hanging on to the memories of the supposed glory days of the past?
Why don’t we entertain some large, even ambitious thoughts for a while.
We may be in a period with the greatest opportunities for meaningful growth in two centuries.
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