Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Always sad. . .

When the membership of the former Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Maywood dwindled to about a dozen worshipers, there appeared to be a higher calling.  "That we would very much like to sell it to another congregation so that it would always be a church," said Susan Nelson-Colaneri, pastor.  The sanctuary, a school and the property sold for about $1.2 million and that's when church officials said the real missionary work began.  "We sat down and did the joyful work of deciding who was going to share the rest of our legacy," Nelson-Colaneri said.  She is also the pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby Hasbrouck Heights. She and other members chose eight different non-profit charities and two churches.

Watch the news report here. . . and read about the news story. . .

It is always sad when a church closes its doors but it is even more sad when the dispersal of funds from its sale is seen as the real missionary work.  I do not at all mean to disparage the use of these funds for the poor and other causes consistent with the identity and mission of that congregation but to suggest that the real missionary work of the church is not alleviating poverty or supporting good causes but doing what ONLY the church can do -- speak the saving message of Christ crucified and risen to a world captive to sin and its death.  All of the other things a church does are peripheral or flow out of this one essential calling and purpose and are not substitutes for preaching the good news of the Kingdom.  We can do all the good we can in the world but unless we proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ's name we are not being faithful and the good we do will not have lasting benefit or fruit by God's design and purpose.

How many congregations close their doors because the Word has ceased to be the center of their life together, the witness to Christ's death and resurrection has fallen to the fringes of their identity and purpose, and they have used their voices for nearly anything and everything but speaking repentance and forgiveness in Christ's name?  This is the pivotal work and the unique calling of Christians in but not of the world.  This is our real missionary work.  We had better not forget it or we will be closing and selling a whole lot more church buildings and shutting down a host of congregations.  Just sayin. . .

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in a small city in Iowa, a city that was once a hotbed of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. The evidence is everywhere to be seen. There are many, many elegant church buildings around town. But sadly, many of them are closed. The RCs have been merging parishes, joining two or three because they have neither the priests nor the people to support them. The Lutherans largely just close up shop and disappear. There is a lovely community center down town that was once a Lutheran church building.

There is a reason for all of this. The Church is no longer talking about sin, eternal life, and salvation, and instead is trying to be "relevant." How ignorant the Church has become!

Fr.D+

Jim Davis said...

To congregations with declining membership , do you reach out/say "Hi"/talk to the
people in your area? Open your church to neighborhood activities, let them know your church is an active and interactive part of the community.
You cannot just drive from your suburban home on Sunday morning, worship via LSB, and drive home.