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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Congregation-less

Several times in recent years I have heard people say, “This is my congregation.” In each case, the congregation in question was a reunion. The speaker was usually someone who feels a very real connection to the church, but no real connection to a congregation. It is no longer uncommon to hear statements like, “This is my community.”

There are probably as many stories behind such statements as there are people who utter them, however the reasons behind this trend are not the subject of this blog. It is the trend itself that interests me. It seems to me I am hearing that statement more and more frequently, and at several different reunions. If increasing numbers of people continue to find meaning (or life, energy, spirit, joy, hope, love or peace) in the reunion experience but not in the congregations, then the congregation’s days are numbered. What would that mean for the church? Is that the future? Could the church survive without congregations? I am having difficulty imagining how.

It is quite possible for people not to attend a congregation but still feel committed to the worldwide church community. Already I know several such persons. Some are diligent readers of church materials, and their spiritual practice may well be exemplary. I suspect some are faithful tithe payers to world church or other levels of church life. Some also give generously to organizations such as World Accord and consider that their tithing. The one common denominator appears to be that they just don’t find it meaningful to go to church.

It is not my intention here to be critical or sit in judgment on people in this situation. That is not my job and I have no interest in doing that. I do have interest in the trend, however, and its implications for the future. I don’t know that any of the people who follow What’s the Good Word? are in this situation, but if so, I would love to hear from you. If you are not in that boat yourself, you probably know someone who is.

What are your thoughts on this? Could the church survive with reunions but no congregations? If so, for how long? Would it go past the second generation? Would such a fellowship be enough community for you?

Questions by Carman

2 comments:

  1. I don't think it's so much a matter of "could" the church survive, but whether the church's survival would matter.

    My daughter asked me the other Sunday why it was so important to go to church. I wasn't prepared for the question but the answer seemed simple: because it's the one time of the week we intentionally focus on others and not ourselves. If this were limited to once a year or even every 6 months, the value, in my opinion, of the "church" would be lost.

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  2. The question of relevance is what this issue is all about. For many people, the congregation does not seem to have much meaning or value, at least in its current expression. As noted in this post, however, the community formed at reunions and camps still seems to speak to many of those people. One person recently told me that they had not gone to reunion last year, choosing to go on vacation somewhere else instead. They really missed it. The question is, how long would that have meaning if that was the only form of church community they had?

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