Stories of congregational transformation are stories of life and death. I can’t remember a story of significant transformation that didn't start with a dying congregation. I have read stories of large churches who start new ministries, who hire new staff, who change their worship style or programming, but I don’t hear the same degree of “new life” in those stories.
It seems there is one requirement for resurrection…death.
We hate going there. What we really want is another band-aid…one with antibiotic this time. Maybe that will heal the deeper disease that threatens our existence. What we want is another analgesic…a pain reliever that hides our disease for a bit longer. What we seek are the quacks with promises too good to be true, but who promise us continued life, even if that life will be walking death.
We know the words of resurrection. We don’t have funerals; we celebrate services of Witness to the Resurrection. We quote the familiar verses that promise us that death holds no power over us, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, that new life is ours.
But death is to be avoided at all costs. Whether it is Presbyterian Women as we knew it in the 60’s or our order of worship which hasn’t changed since Christ was born, we just hate for it to die.
Outsiders don’t see much of our hope of resurrection. They watch us cling to our comfort zones as our pews empty out and our ability to pay the bills tanks. They hear us lament about their lack of involvement in our terminal illness and wonder if our minds have “already gone.” We use our last bit of energy to fight battles about the color of our hospice gowns and who should be allowed in to visit.
It may be time to pay attention to the one requirement for resurrection. It may be time to embrace death.
What dies will be different for every church. Maybe it is a congregation. Maybe a program. Maybe a relationship that no longer thrives. Maybe it is an expectation. Maybe it is faith in a pastor or a program or a style of worship. God only knows.
But what is true is that new life, resurrection, comes only after something is gone, after something is dead, after we are willing to let go of worshipping life as we know it and trust that in life and in death, we belong to God.