A few years ago, I was at a local gathering of Disciples (my denomination) in Minnesota. It was a good event overall, a time when our small tribe could gather to worship and fellowship. Somewhere early in the event, there was a slide that showed all of the Disciple congregations in Minnesota that no longer exist. The speaker wanted us to honor the work that these former faith communities did and I was in agreement. They had for a season, been a small example of God’s kingdom.
As much as I wanted to honor these congregations, I also felt a sense of annoyance. Not with these congregations, but the fact that we Disciples in Minnesota are a smaller groups of people. In the last 15 years or so, a number of congregations in the state have closed. Churches in Rochester, Mankato and Fridley (a suburb north of Minneapolis). Some of these congregations had simply reached the end of their lives and that is understandable. No, the frustrating thing is that we aren’t replacing those churches and it seems at times like most people don’t care.
A century ago, it was not uncommon for local churches to plant new churches. First Christian in Minneapolis (where I used to serve) planted a number of churches over the years. They looked to see an area where there was no Disciple church and a number of people would go to start a Sunday School class that would be come a church.
Over time, our churches have lost that evangelical drive. We have become risk-averse. People have become skeptical that investing money in church plants actually makes a difference. Better to spend it on a needy social service agency. Some pastors from outside the area have said they were interested in church planting, but only if they were given money to support them.
I don’t say this to trash talk or to speak ill of folk. But I do think there is a problem here when it comes to planting new churches.
I have had an interest myself in planting a church, but I already have a church that is in a transformation process, so I don’t know if I have the time to do this.
What is needed is for their to be a revival of sorts, people who feel called to help plant new communities. I pray for the Pentecost winds to blow among our small Disciple tribe in Minnesota to have a passion to tell the good news of Jesus that translates into new churches.
I think we can say “well done” to those churches that are no longer with us. But we should also be busy planting new communities, places that can reach the Minnesota of 2015.
I pray that this might come true.