I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people complaining about the decline of the church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as aware of the dismal statistics as you are. But I’m tired of hearing them for two reasons. First, precisely because we already know them, I’m just not sure how helpful it is to repeat them to ourselves endlessly. Second, because it’s not the whole story. There is a lot of growth, a lot of potential, and a lot of hope in our congregations as well as decline. Moreover, the Spirit is moving in exciting ways and I am firmly convinced that we are on the cusp of exciting, if unpredictable, renewal.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. You, for starters, may feel the same way—aware of the challenges but far more excited about the opportunities in front of us. Recognizing that we’re not alone is important, as together we are a lot more likely to participate in the Spirit’s renewal than you or I could possibly do alone. Congregations are a primary place where the Spirit is at work for the renewal of the Church and spread of the Gospel. This conviction is important because there are a lot of folks who have all but given up on congregations and, along with it, their leaders. Most tragically, some of the people who have given up on congregations and their leaders are, in fact, the leaders themselves.
I am excited to report on the other hand, that this fall the Presbyterian Churches in Nassau County decided to come together not to talk about their problems but to look for solutions to their problems. There are a number of interesting conversations taking place. For example, our church is entering into a conversation with the Massapequa Community Presbyterian Church to discuss ways to do shared ministry. Let me be clear we are not talking about a merger but sharing activities and in the near future perhaps sharing a pastor. The session and I will keep you informed as to how our conversations are developing every step of the way.
As we embark upon Advent (the Christian new year) and celebrate Christmas it is a chance to look back on the year and imagine where, how, why, and when Christ’s ideal of the world has had power in our lives. At the same time, it is an invitation to look forward and see how you want that to be true in your future. This is an opportunity for us as a congregation to begin to think about the new things we want to do and to construct resolutions that will create change.
We always wait for January to get on with our lives, but what would happen if we chose to get on with life now? How would Advent and Christmas be different? Perhaps our preparation would actually reflect the reality of Christ’s kingdom. Christ’s reign will not wait until Christmas or our New Year’s resolutions will not be limited to January. The spirit does not want us to wait until we feel fully prepared and perfect to make a difference. No the opportunity to serve Christ is here and now. What if Christ is calling us today? Let us answer, here I am Lord, send me.
The whole purpose of Advent and Christmas is to demonstrate to the world that Christ reigns. We sing the songs, and give the gifts and shine our lights brightly but we stop singing, stop giving, and take down our lights as if Christ no longer reigns at the end of December. Does Christ only reign in December? No, we sing and believe that He (Christ) shall reign forever and ever! It is my prayer that the same expectation and excitement that surrounds us as if we wait for Christmas would fill our hearts as we look for the possibilities of revival and renewal in our congregation this coming year!
Yours in Christ,