This week I read an interview that featured Bob Smietana speaking about some of the topics in his book, Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters. I have yet to read the book, it’s on my to-read list! (You can read the interview through Faith & Leadership at Duke Divinity here.) Here’s a noteworthy quote, “In a world where polarization and fear often dominate conversations and relationships, Smietana says, people need what the church has. Sometimes that means skills such as asking forgiveness, admitting that you need help and understanding that you can dislike someone yet still see them as a person of worth and a neighbor.”*
Smietana shares that as the number and size of churches decline and fewer people are members of congregations, some of the gifts that churches have to offer to society are disappearing. These gifts won’t be replaced.
A good question for churches to ponder remains, “If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone outside of your congregation even notice?” If the answer is no, then your congregation has some work to do to truly be of service to your community. If the answer is yes, well, it’s still not about resting on your laurels. Because it is our continual call to love and serve our neighbors.
Sometimes I worry about the future of the Christian Church in America. There have been “signs of decline” my entire life. In fact, my childhood pastor encouraged me to have an undergraduate degree that could provide a fallback career should serving churches not be a viable option for me to make a living (and because ministry burnout rates are so high). These are some of the vocational realities, and my pastor knew it when counseling me back when I was in high school! Churches in decline. Staff cuts. Selling church buildings. Ministry burnout. Churches closing. The instability of many institutions in our society. It’s a lot.
So, what gives me hope?
That what we in the Church do for one another and for our communities matters.
Our call as followers of Jesus is to love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves.
I believe that churches are places of hope and healing in an increasingly hurting world. And perhaps our presence in society is even more important today.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Thursday Thoughts 10/20/22
*Bob Smietana, “Why the decline of the church matters to everyone,” as featured in Faith & Leadership, October 18, 2022, https://faithandleadership.com/bob-smietana-why-the-decline-the-church-matters-everyone?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Read%20more&utm_campaign=fl_newsletter