It was a beautiful building known as the lighthouse on the hill. A Methodist church over a century old, rows of wooden pews with stained glass windows and a massive organ. I remember singing hymns on Sundays and going out to breakfast after the service with my family. I remember the sense of quiet and the idea that I hadn’t figured this faith stuff out yet. It was childhood faith on autopilot.
Twenty-years later I found out that it was closing. This once-proud institution was now meeting in their Fellowship Hall, unable to pay to clean or heat the sanctuary. They were down to forty members with many of the older families dying out and, with their passing, the passing of their financial support.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23.
Paul’s words offer a stark reminder as the modern church exists on both ends of the argument. Drive in an hour radius of my house and you’ll find a range of services, from conservative to charismatic, from inner-city to farm country. You’ll find houses of worship operating in the image of those they serve on a weekly basis.
Here are two things to ask yourself in relation to your church:
Is it looking forward? Paul spent his life looking forward to an eternal reward. He mentions that his goal was always to save people. Do you have active local and international missions? How about a youth program that is growing with an influx of young families? If something isn’t working, does the church change to make it better? The goal should be to make a difference. When the church stops moving, like the shark, it dies.
Is it making a difference? I remember one Sunday, as a child, being called down front for the children’s message (a weekly tradition). I was the only one there. Just me. I can still recall the awkward conversation between the pastor, who meant well, and his solo audience member.
Is your church making a difference where it counts? Are people coming to know Christ and hear the gospel? Are lives changing and are people getting saved? Are you making an impact on the doors of Heaven?
I believe that not every church will see their 100th birthday and not every church is meant to be huge. You don’t need size to be alive. It took a small handful of disciples to change the world.
My family and I are blessed to now be part of a vibrant community of faith, a place I wish I had found as a child. As we take our two sons to church every Sunday, I’m thrilled to know they will not share my past experience.
We all look forward to what is coming and how we can play a part in the church we now call home.