I couldn’t make this up. A reader writes:
“I just sat through an amazing discussion. A group of parishioners were discussing church growth, and they pretty much all thought it would be better for our church to fade away to nothing than to change to attract new members.
“The attitude was that we all found a special place and we like it here. Anyone who doesn’t like this special place is free to go elsewhere.” We don’t want to do anything to attract others if it takes away from what we like and enjoy.
“I had no idea how to respond.”
If the “seven last words of the church” are, “We’ve never done it that way before,” then the death-knell of the church is this attitude: Better to die than to grow.
It’s wrong on so many levels: lack of charity toward strangers, a misreading of whose church this is, poor stewardship of resources entrusted to their care, ignorance of what growth means, and a death-wish masquerading as a life-is-good wish.
First response: This is God’s church, not theirs. Depending on their denomination, property and resources might actually belong to the judicatory. Either way, they are stewards, not owners. Read what Jesus taught about poor stewards.
Second: Making disciples was a fundamental commandment given by Jesus, and it’s a necessity: grow or die.
Third: All love transforms. Falling in love changes each partner. Having children changes a marriage. There is no way to express love without embracing the inevitability of change. To avoid change, one would have to stop loving.
Finally: Visitors rarely come to a church seeking to change it. They come seeking love and faith. If they don’t find love or faith, they will leave. But if they find it, they will stay, and you won’t even notice how much change occurs because you chose to love.
Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of On a Journey, and the founder of the Church Wellness Project www.churchwellness.com.