Why do people keep asking what do we need to do to grow?
What are the common characteristics of growing churches? What are indicators of decline? Recently I saw a graph that showed churches that focused on survival or inward were in decline. The same graph showed churches that had a vision for outreach and what goes on outside the walls of the building and Sunday morning, overall were the churches that are showing growth and vitality.
Churches that are clear about why they exist and what they should be doing are most likely to be growing congregations. There is no substitute for a real and articulated mission that connects directly to proclaiming Christ and his Resurrection in word and deed. The escapist theology of waiting for Jesus to return, getting to heaven and staying out of hell, does not resonate with young people today. They see the results of that thinking and want nothing to do with it. Who can blame them? Who wants to live as if nothing they do matters except to save our skin? What kind of hope is there in thinking that our problems are so overwhelming that only the end of the world as we know it can solve them. People are looking for church that has somewhere to go and something to say and they say it, do it, and go.
The bottom line is that churches with clear purposes are likely to grow. The Lord’s Prayer say’s “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” God’s kingdom is coming here, God’s will is done here. That is what we do and that is the goal. Jesus says to, “Proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near!” Growing churches proclaim this goal clearly and it is laid out in public and easy to trace by the use of the people and pastor’s time and the use of the facilities, and most of all, the priorities of the budget. Money is a good acid test. That is why we have emphasized the ELCA Benevolence this year. We have done Backpacks for school kids, gifts for the Oasis youth in Akron, Quilts and School Kits for Lutheran World Relief, monthly 3rd Sunday Projects to help others, the building is open to the Food Pantry, A.A. and Alanon, and Girl Scouts. As pastor, I have been involved in the Hudson Ministerial Association for years and now I am working with other faith communities and preparing a food drive for the November election to benefit the Akron Canton Food Bank. Because what goes on outside these walls is important, I will be taking on a leadership role in the Hudson Community Service Association, which runs the Food Pantry, Helping Hands (Assistance program), and the holiday lighting downtown.
Our mission is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people and our vision is to be love in the world. Have you noticed the question following these statements in the worship bulletin: “What have you done this week?” It isn’t just me that is out there doing the work of mission. It is you too! I know many of you are doing just that! N.T. Wright in his book, “Surprised by Hope” say’s “The church is called to a mission of implementing Jesus’ resurrection and thereby anticipating the final new creation. What might that look like?” Heaven on earth is such a wonderful image that we are in awe that this is going to happen here. We can only assume that there will be true justice and peace, no pain, no sin, and no death. This is our mission. This is what God has called us to do and this is what we pray God will use us to accomplish.
Peace, Pastor Mike