At the beginning part of last week I attended a stewardship conference. There were keynotes and a presentation. And plenty of opportunities for connections.
One of the speakers made the following statements that caught my attention:
“We are either headed toward a funeral or a baptism. Pick which one and choose your leadership appropriately.”
Wow. And so true. These are strong words that the church can stand to hear. And they are grounded in great theology too.
As a church, we are headed towards funerals and baptisms. Funerals acknowledge the reality of death in our midst. And they offer the promise and hope of resurrection. Too often our churches claim resurrection, but in reality, are frightened of death. This is why churches are often change-resistant. They believe that a change will lead to death. And that’s not totally off either. Any change is a form of death. It’s letting go of the way things have been done. But as Christians, we cling to the promise of resurrection – new life. But do we actually believe it? Or do we just voice the words while doubting it at its core?
Churches are living bodies. And all living bodies die at some point. Are we afraid of that? Does death have the final say when it comes to the life of our churches? Or is death something that any living thing has to go through in order to experience resurrection? The challenge I think we face with this is that resurrection is out of our control. It’s in God’s hands entirely. And letting go of control is not something institutions are very good at doing – including the church.
What about baptism? Baptism is a form of a funeral also. It is dying to self so that we can be reborn by God. But we think of baptism in much more positive senses. Baptism is just the beginning of our journey of faith. It is full of promise. There is much growth yet to come.
So which are we going to be celebrating? A funeral or a baptism? Both involve change or transformation. Both deal with life, death, and resurrection. Both offer a promise. Both are theological in nature. Both also have something else in common – a re-identification of those involved. The relationship changes and so do the positions in that community. There is change and transformation. And it impacts all in the community.
So what’s it going to be church – a funeral or a baptism? I’m ready to celebrate.