Life begins at birth, or more exactly at conception. From there we grow and even though growth never truly ends, life often reaches a plateau where we become less interested in growth and more involved in maintaining what we have accomplished. At some point though, human life begins to decline and finally dies. This is the life cycle.
The image above expresses the natural development of one’s personal life and relationships, as well as the natural development of biological systems, institutions, worldviews, civilizations, and organizations including the church. As a life cycle, if nothing is done to interrupt it, death will occur. Even though God has promised that the Church will not die (Matthew 16:18) this promise has not been extended to individual congregations. The congregations of the New Testament are no longer in existence even though their witness is.
This does not mean that congregations have to become fatalistic and give up when growth seems to have stopped or when decline has begun to occur.
We are in a period of rapid change and every part of society is going through the life cycle at an increasingly rapid pace. How is it possible for congregations to stay on the growing edge or to turn things around when life has plateaued or when congregation’s find themselves in decline?
Next week I will draw on some thoughts from one writer, but until then I want to put these thoughts into the context of God.
God is in control no matter how fast the world spins. The life of the Church and every congregation needs to rest on Christ, the Rock – our foundation. If we attempt to run with the world we will simply get caught up in it and find ourselves swept from the Rock. I believe our calling is to stand firm on the Rock of Christ and from this Rock we are to reach out to people who are being swept away, offering them the life ring of salvation.
At the same time, we must not become complacent as leaders and members of the church, standing on the rock, but not engaged in the mission of salvation. We have been placed on the Rock with the promise of God in Christ whose word declares:
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8
But we have also been placed on the Rock with the commission:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. – Matthew 28