As the average attendance and membership of mainline protestant churches continue to slowly spiral down, we try to repaint the walls with new contemporary murals, dress up the sanctuary with artistic liturgical dressings and blast out slightly more modern music during the anthem and offertory. The hierarchical structure of the Church (both formal and informal) that sets up power dynamics which are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus? We leave them alone. The programs, groups and events of the church (from Sunday School to various long established women's or men's groups) that have been struggling, in some cases, for decades? We don't dare change them. The hypocritical judgment of anyone who isn't either one of us or like us? We simply ignore the log in our own eye.
We, those who have been part of the leadership of the Church, have been redecorating rather than putting out the fire. As we have done so, we have been fanning the flame. We should have been putting an end to the smoldering mess it has become and began renovating, restructuring and repurposing. We should be revisioning our future but instead we are busy decoupaging our church photo albums, not only remembering the “good old days” but insisting that we recreate the still lives we have created in our heads as way to fix the here and now.
The worst part is, we are so frightened of a new future (and the change needed to achieve it) that we continue to repeat this behavior over and over again receiving the same results every time (which is to say, receiving little to no results) and somehow, each time, we think that this time it will be different. We completely fail to realize that our system is perfectly designed to achieve the results we have – a slowly dying church. Burn baby, burn.
The good news is that no matter what happens, the Church will live. We can let it burn all the way down to the ground as we stand by watching while we embrace the memories in our photo album and the Church will go on – just without us.