United Methodist ministers meet annually with other ministers and church attenders. This is known as an annual conference. It’s a visioning/business meeting sort of thing. Reports are read and presentations are made that highlight the state of the church.
One of the reports/presentations includes churches that have closed. It’s always sad to hear the church names read while a picture is placed on the screen. It’s one thing to hear a name but another thing to see the church. They come in many forms and happen in what seems every type of community. During this presentation, people that have attended those churches as part of the church body are asked to stand.
This year it hit home more than usual as a close friend stood when his childhood church’s name was added to the list. The church was 9th Street UMC in Decatur, AL. His mother was still a part until it closed. In fact, it’s the church you see at the beginning of this post.
Every church seems to have a season and some close. They close for various reasons… Lack of vision, leaders like the power of their position and won’t give up their post, financing, lack of ability to attract new people or even the lack of desire to have new people, just to name a few. I also believe that there are times when you can do all you know to do and it’s still not enough. The season is over.
As I heard the names read this year, as in years past, I wonder how it ended up this way. Who wants to be a part of a church that is declining to the point of closing? My guess is nobody! The churches, at one time had been vibrant and full of life, as people who stood on the conference floor when their church was read could testify.
I understand that some churches come to the end of their useful life – none of Paul’s churches still exist. But what frightens me are those churches that close that hadn’t finished serving God the way God had hoped. That could happen in many ways, I’ll leave you to guess what that would look like…
But the one question I have relates to our love for the “have nots.” Did any of the closed churches quit loving the “have nots?” Did they love on those they had, “the haves” and lose sight of the ones they didn’t, the “have nots?”
Loving the “haves” is very important. But, in my opinion, the love for the “have nots” must be incredibly important too. Nothing earth shattering here. While many believers may agree, the question remains, what are we doing to reach the “have nots” on a personal level? Many believers would agree that we should, but how many actually have a personal strategy for actually reaching the “have nots?” Many may have a detailed strategy, I just don’t know, but my hunch is, my gut instinct is, they don’t – but I hope I’m wrong.
If you don’t have a specific plan to reach the “have nots”, then I hope you’ll give it some thought. I don’t think we need to pray about “should we”, but instead pray that God will guide lead you in ways to do it.
It’s something to seriously think about, if we haven’t, and time to put that plan into action.