Why does a church exist? This week I’ve been trying to write about that as I read chapter 2, An invitation to Labor for Gods Harvest, from “Bearing Fruit” by Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin. But what actually appears on the screen is either, “why does a church excite”, or “why does a church exit?” Spell-check’s constantly hovering presence surfaced a very real set of underlying options. What about you, is your church exciting or exiting?
Why does your church exist? Answers often start with what the church does and move to what the church hopes it is. For example, Tallyho UMC sponsors polo matches, hymn sings, children’s dance classes, etc… and is a welcoming community.
What a church does with its time and resources reveals what it values most. These choices create the actual container, the form, of the church’s mission. The character of a church as it does these things, the quality of its life together, reveals how it experiences Christ. The character of a church reveals its theology, what it understands, or doesn’t, about Jesus.
Vision is what your church exists to become.
Recently, lay members of Belfast UMC spoke with no small sense of wonder about their transformative church supper experience. Now, I have heard church suppers called many things, but never transformative. A few years ago, under the strain of last minute calls for more casseroles and worry about how much money each supper would, or wouldn’t, bring in for the church’s budget, two finance people asked the really big question, “why are we doing this?” While the suppers had once been an exciting community project that built church community, now it wasn’t helping them become who they knew God wants them to be. So, remembering that they exist to people in the community around them with God’s love, Belfast UMC stepped out in faith. They (1) made doing suppers fun with a new creative teamwork and (2) stopped charging their guests. Now three times as many people attend and they receive as much in donations as they did from tickets. More importantly, they create a welcoming environment so that people are comfortable being themselves while brushing up against Christian community at its best.
What does your church exist to do? What difference does it make?
What does your church exist to be? How does it look like Jesus?
Do you have a plan for becoming what you’ve glimpsed is God’s exciting desire for your existence? If you haven’t, you’re on the way to the exit. There is no autopilot that can take you there.
Next week: “So that,” the two most powerful word for fruitful discipleship.
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.