As Christians, we proclaim life, death, and resurrection. Proclaiming it is one thing. Living into it is something else. Too often the death and resurrection part is relegated to physical death and a hope of resurrection sometime in the future.
But the reality is that the cycle of life, death, and resurrection is for more than just our physical lives.
It applies to our churches too. But that gets rather uncomfortable to talk about doesn’t it?
What would it look like for a church to go through life, death, and resurrection?
It could very well mean the death of a church – that it closes, so that a new mission can be launched in its place.
It could also mean that something in the church dies, to make room for resurrected life within the existing congregation.
It could mean an attitude or culture dies to make room for resurrected congregational life.
It could mean relationships die to make room for resurrected relationships.
It could mean a number of things – the possibilities are endless really.
But are we willing to consider them? To really explore all the possibilities of how we, as a church, need to die so that resurrection can happen? Or do we prefer withholding some of the options because they seem to painful or uncomfortable for us to consider.
I think part of this comes from our attaching negative thoughts to death. Death seems so permanent, doesn’t it? That’s not what we proclaim from the pulpit though. Every funeral I do, I say some similar things – things like: “Death does not get the final say.”
But do we really believe it? If we do, then death isn’t totally negative. Yes, death sucks – no doubt. But sometimes, death is a good thing. That may sound shocking to you. Is it bad for an oppressive attitude or an unhealthy culture to die? Do we really mourn that? Or is it a sense of relief and freedom?
Let’s face reality – at some point, each one of our churches will die. That’s just reality. Nothing that is human made lasts forever. Even the churches that Paul launched no longer exist. They existed for a time and then died. But that doesn’t mean they were worthless. The letters we have to those churches are of great value – they show us that in some cases the challenges they faced are still being faced by us today. They show that churches were full of sinful and broken people, just like us. They show us the conflicts that existed – conflict in churches still exists today. And they show us that churches exist for a time, place, and people to advance the Gospel. And then something else will take its place to continue the journey.
If all churches will die, do we fear that death? Do we place the life of the institution above the mission of the Gospel? Can we see what resurrected life might look like for a congregation?