When Your Church Is Like Hotel Room Coffee
I'm writing today from a hotel room in downtown Baltimore. I'm finishing up two days of training on how to be a facilitator in the new church revitalization initiative about to be launched by the Presbyterian Church (USA).
I'm also drinking hotel room coffee, which is a desperation move, to be sure. No one sets out to drink hotel room coffee. It just happens, and then you live in regret.
Speaking of desperation and regret... there have been more than a few moments over the course of this training when I've felt like we're all wasting our time.
It feels like all of the efforts that are being put into trying to revitalize scores of churches that are not only dying but are resistant to change is like drinking cup after cup of hotel room coffee, hoping that eventually, it will start tasting like a mocha frappuccino.
It won't, for the record.
Yesterday someone said that perhaps our role as pastors in this post-Christian context within which we live is to simply act as hospice nurses, employing palliative measures so the Church can die gracefully.
I get it. Desperation without hope can lead to resignation. Like when you begin to believe that maybe you don't deserve a decent cup of coffee, and should just accept the hotel room coffee as the only kind of coffee you'll be drinking from now on.
I read a quote from C.S. Lewis some time ago that spoke to me, and now I understand why. Here's what he said:
The Church will outlive the universe.Lewis was referring to the Church with a capital "C," mind you. Because the Church wasn't created by human beings---it was instituted by Christ, and it is Christ's to rule.
Individual churches come and go. In fact, 4,000 of them close every year, and mostly because they refuse to change... refuse to adapt to the culture around them... refuse to believe they can serve something other than hotel coffee... refuse to include...
But the Church lives still. And individual faith communities that see themselves as living, moving, growing and loving expressions of Christ's Church are more abundant than you might think. They take all kinds of forms and are made up of all different sizes.
The one thing they have in common (and this is how you will know you are in one) is that they take seriously Jesus's command to Love God and Love Everybody. In these communities no one is marginalized, no one is rejected.
These churches don't exist for their own self-preservation. They don't exist merely to become "bigger and better." They exist for the sake of the world, and to embody the kingdom of God. They exist to share the Good News that there is abundant life to be had when we embrace the Way of Jesus.
If you are not part of a community like that--find one. I'd be happy to help you. You deserve more than hotel coffee. We all do.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.