Partners in Mission:
Across our territory it often still feels like summer. However, all around us are the signs of fall. School has begun again, the sun is setting earlier in the evening, and just this past weekend High School football (at least in our Texas territory) began. Each Friday (and occasionally Thursday) night a precise liturgy is carried out as communities come together to root on their team.
Just as these communal signs of fall are among us so it is in our congregations. Fall programming, rally days, Sunday school, are all in some form being reinstated. Yet, they look very different now than in the past. The collective trauma of the pandemic and continued declines in active participation in Sunday religious activities have impacted how we do this work. We cannot simply “rally” everyone back in. Because if we have learned anything over the past 2+ years it is that they aren’t just going to come.
Yet teaching discipleship is now more vital than ever. While Americans continue to claim religious adherence the reality is more and more do not attend worship or participate in religious formation. There are a number of reasons for this decline in attendance yet claim of adherence to the Christian faith. The reasons people leave church are many, including the well documented failures of church institutions to protect victims of abuse. But this reality is creating a new phenomenon that also has consequences. People claiming to follow Jesus but are doing so with no community of Jesus followers to support and guide them.
So what do we do about this reality? First off, as with church growth there is no magic formula or program. But there is the gospel. I believe what is absolutely required is our communities investing in the basics and one-on-one discipleship. The basics in teaching the way of Jesus. A way of humble service and love for neighbor that does not privilege those the world privileges and has no room for racism, misogyny, violence, or oppression. Self-giving love that speaks to a broken world a message it so desperately needs. And doing this on a small scale, on Jesus’ scale. Activating those connected to our communities and teaching us again how to share our faith. One-on-one, engaging our neighbors.
God rejoices when we share the gospel with others. Not in a flailing attempt to make our churches bigger or fill Sunday school rooms but in honest service and proclamation. So as we enter this fall I invite every member of NT-NL to consider who in their life needs to hear and see the way of Jesus in them. And to invite them to know of the joy of a God who loves us unconditionally.
In Mission Together,