As an introvert, I dont often make small talk with fellow passengers on a flight. Now that you can use a kindle during taxi and takeoff, my nose is often in a book or playing a game on my phone. But today, even my game of “caveman story” couldn’t save me from a conversation with a new single-serving friend. And I’m grateful.
It turns out we both went to seminary. And are currently in non traditional sorts of ministry. We had a great conversation about mission and development and empowering local communities. We also talked about how messed up the church can be.
At one point, he said we need to do as much as we can to serve God before the winter of our lives. In many ways, he was talking about the life cycle of churches… and how many of our congregations are living in their winter days. Or at least approaching them. What good can we do before we die and fade away?
On the first leg of my flight, I had been reading the “Game of Thrones” books ( book 2, in fact) and there, “winter is coming” has a slightly different meaning. We know how seasons work, with their cycle of life and death and life again. However, in Martin’s world, the seasons go on for years and are unpredictable in their length. The world is in the midst of a long summer… around a decade in length. But as the lords of the north often say, “winter is coming. ” It always does. So you must prepare.
The world as we know it is changing. Whether we are actively dying or merely adjusting to a change in the climate, we have to pay attention and we must act.
Bullard’s life cycle of churches describes how a congregation is born, matures and dies. He talks about vision, relationships, programs, and structure being the driving forces in various stages of that cycle. Unlike our physical human lives, however, churches can begin a new cycle if only they allow vision to take the reigns.
We need to not only believe winter is coming, we need to see what kind of life is required of us to make it through. If we don’t… if we keep pretending that the good old days of summer will last forever, we will die before the thaw.
May our churches see… and may they chose to live differently.