‘What is our church here for?’
I wonder if you’ve ever asked this question in your church? It’s an important question to ask ourselves (as congregations, but also as a synod, and even as individual Christians). Our answer to this question should be shaping what we do, and directing what we spend our time and money on.
If we don’t stop to ask the question, even just to remind ourselves of our answer, we risk being stuck repeating what we do now. We might miss out on what God is inviting us to do next. We might start believing that we are here to keep the church building open, or to keep the Sunday worship going, and forget that they are really just means to a greater end.
So, what are we here for?
One answer might be that we are here to worship God together and to teach the Christian faith. These two aims have probably been the common answer in most churches in our country for hundreds of years. We might want to add other ideas such as charity or doing good deeds, and evangelism or sharing the faith, but these have not generally been our primary aims.
When it was clear during the twentieth century that fewer people were coming to church, lots of effort went into adapting, reinvigorating or reforming our worship and teaching to make it more relevant to people’s lives. This has been valuable and should be on-going, but perhaps looking for new ways to do our worship and teaching can only take us so far? Perhaps we need to consider a different answer to the question, ‘what are we here for’?
A new priority?
I wonder what our churches would look like if ‘what we are here for’ started with serving the poor and sharing the Good News? And then, if we imagined a blank sheet of paper, I wonder what our church life would look like in order to meet that new goal? What might we be doing with our time and our money?
Prioritising worship and teaching may have made sense at a time when most people in our society considered themselves Christians. Today we live in a different world. Perhaps we need different priorities in order to show people that God still loves them?
I wonder what your church is here for? What are we here for?
Jon Steel (Synod Mission Advocate)