William Willimon, the bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, and an outstanding author and theologian, posted on his blog yesterday a call for churches to establish “a clear religious identity.” And I thought it fit in very well with my meager thoughts yesterday on “religious consumers.”
In discussing why churches grow or shrink in size, Willimon quotes from C. Kirk Hadaway and David A. Roozen’s book Rerouting the Protestant Mainstream: Sources of growth and Opportunities for Change. “The key issue for churches seems to be a compelling religious character, not whether the content of that character is liberal or conservative.”
First and foremost, a Christian church must be about God in Christ. Before it’s about anything else, it must be about Jesus. The salvation acts of the Father through the Son are the foundation for everything else a church does, not a tagline at the end or an add-on to the side.
Willimon says, “When churches become distracted, seeing themselves as just another volunteer service organization, or one more friendly social club, they decline. The business of church is God.”
He calls for churches to develop a “clear religious identity and a compelling vision” with God in Christ at the center.
To me, that’s always meant slogans that are God-based, not people based. Mission statements that focus on Jesus, not our programs. More Bible reading in the assemblies and times for confession and prayer, not less. High expectations of church members to live Christ-centered lives in a community of faith. Not content with members meeting bare minimum expectations in virtual isolation from the community. The image of the cross ever before us, not the American flag or the local football teams’ logos.
Give Willimon’s post a read. And let me know what you think. You can get to it by clicking here.