Last month I talked about getting lost in thick mist as we went down Pelorus Sound. I noticed from the compass that we were pointing in completely the wrong way, but then found our way using the radar that showed us the hills all around us on its screen.
I said that I was intending to use this story to talk about where I think the Church has lost its way and what we Church people need to do about it; so here goes.‘I was Aware that something was wrong’
Not long after I became a minister I was all too aware that something was wrong with the Church. My congregation was pretty typical; mainly a decreasing number of wise and faithful old people and a very few young families just about hanging in there with us.
I plotted graphs of numbers coming to our church on Sundays going back for many years, and it showed a steady decline.
I didn’t annoy people, my congregation by and large said they liked what I said on Sunday, I was consistently complimented after I took a baptism, wedding or funeral. Yet do what I might it didn’t change things. The reality was that people who didn’t come to church were warm towards me (and my wife Linda) and generally appreciative of what my church got up to, but they didn’t want to be part of what we did on Sundays.
Advice from community leaders
So I went and interviewed local community leaders, like newspaper columnists, city councillors and politicians and asked them what they thought the Church should be doing.
Consistently I was told they wanted us to be a moral presence that helped those who needed help. Nobody was in the least interested in what we did on Sundays.
That led me to see church services as when we are closed to business and outsiders, and at best when we are having staff training, or being more cynical it is the church’s “happy hour”. People who come to church services usually find it good for them, like the office happy hour is a highlight of the working week, but we are really being church outside that time for the other 167 hours of the week.
Where does the lost boat come into that? What the community leaders said is the reality of the hills that has to guide the course. This has set the scene and the unpacking of the story will continue next time.