A Risky Invitation – Jan Edmiston

During a break at a New Church Development Conference, I had this conversation with an elder from a new church in Florida:

Me: So tell me about your new church.
Elder: Well, we meet in a school and it’s kind of a pain to set up the chairs every week. I miss having pews and a center aisle.
Me: What’s worship like?
Elder: I don’t really like the music. I’m more traditional and the music is a little wild for me.
And I’m not crazy about all the moving around.
Me: So, you’re here at a New Church Development Conference representing your church but you don’t like where you worship and you don’t like the music. Why in the world is that your church?
Elder (face lighting up): Because I’d give up the things I love to see all those young adults crowd into that school cafeteria every Sunday to meet God. Hundreds of young adults coming through the doors every week to be God’s people together. I’m happy to give up what makes me happy to make God happy.

Most church people are not like that guy. Most of us church people have favorite hymns and preferred seats in the sanctuary. We like saying The Lord’s Prayer the way we have always said it. We like familiar liturgy and familiar faces and we even have an opinion about the paint colors in the kitchen.

Imagine if we loved God so much that we would give up all our favorite things about church for the sake of those who are not yet with us. And by “with us” I mean joining the saints who want to spend their lives following the way of Jesus.

When we are excited about a fabulous movie or book, we can’t help but tell people about it. We want to share the news.
Heck, we share funny YouTube videos more readily than we share how Christ has saved us. So what would we give up to expand the kingdom of God?

At the risk of offending everyone, especially tiny congregations (less than 30 in worship) with huge buildings . . .

• if you haven’t done anything new or fresh or risky in the past few years,
• if your maintenance bills are big and your capacity for ministry is small,
• if you spend more time doing administrative business than missional business or prayerful business,

consider if you would be willing to give up what you love about your church for the sake of those who are not yet with us? Would you consider closing your present ministry in order to start a new, fresh ministry?

Large churches need to be planting new churches on a regular basis. But tiny churches have a calling too, and maybe that calling is to allow the death of some of our churches and making resurrection possible with a new body of Christ.
Are we willing to give up everything we love about our church for the sake of those who are not yet being served? It’s something to ponder, especially during Lent.

Jan Edmiston pastored churches in upstate NY and the DC area for 27 years before serving on the staff of The Presbytery of Chicago. Her life is now spent helping churches make the shift to become 21st Century congregations. She happily sticks her hand in the crazy, while also writing and speaking on new church development, emerging church, and healthy congregations. Her blog is A Church for Starving Artists, http://achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/
She’s also the spouse of one and the mom of three. And she is a fabulous baker.

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