Remember the ‘Why?’ of Church – Pastor Thoughts

As you may have read last time, I spent last week in the mountains at the Alberta Study Conference. It is an annual event in Canmore (a beautiful little mountain town just outside of Banff), which is always a treat to visit. 

Study conferences are a chance to hear keynote speakers, spend time with friends and colleagues, and have the chance to get away for a bit. All important parts of finding some rest and rejuvenation in ministry, or really any vocation. 

But the other piece is having the change to step back and look at things with perspective. It is easy to get mired in the details and day-to-day of things, so taking intentional time to step back and ask some of the bigger questions is vital. Plus being surrounded by mountains has a natural way of granting some helpful perspective. 

Church life can be a race from Advent to Easter, a marathon and a sprint combined, that you are always feeling like you need to catch up. I was fortunate last week to have some good conversations with colleagues about ministry and to take the chance to sit with my thoughts. 

A lot of the conversation was centered on the fact that the church has a lot on our plate these days, change management chief among them. But along with navigating all the change that we facing, it is easy for us to forget why we are doing all this in the first place. 

This notion was confirmed again at our local clergy meeting here in Winnipeg this week. The Bishop remarked that 2023 will be a big year for the church, with several congregations facing big challenges and decisions. Change is happening already. But, along with the challenges due to pandemic, general decline, an aging population that isn’t replacing itself (our birthrate is only 1.4 in Canada!), climate change, political unrest, economic inequality and so on, the church seems to have difficulty articulating the purpose at our core. We can get so fixated on making sure we can keep the lights on, pay the insurance, fill council spots, print bulletins, find Sunday School teachers, etc., that we forget that all of those things actually have very little to do with our core mission. We aren’t communities whose core purpose is having money in offering plates, well maintained buildings and full council/committee rosters. 

Rather, all of those things are secondary or tertiary to why we exist. Offering and committees and buildings are simply the means to the end of “Church.” Our central purpose is to proclaim the Gospel, to tell the world of the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection. 

Still, it can be hard to really know what that means. How do we proclaim that? Why is this 2000-year-old story important? It feels more concrete to focus on cleaning carpets, making sure the snow is shovelled and filling volunteer roles. 

I am someone who believes that we cannot talk enough about those big picture pieces that sit at the core of our being. Why Church? Why Jesus? Why the Bible? Why is all of that so important?

This Lent, we will be having Soup+Bread Studies after worship and we will talk about these questions. We will take the time to articulate – to say out loud again in conversation – why being a community of faith in this time and place is important, and why budgets, buildings and volunteers are needed to keep the church going. Not because we need budgets, buildings and volunteers, but because we are human beings living in a messy world in need of hope and light. Hope and Light that is found in the Gospel message heard in communities of faith just like ours. 

As we approach Annual Meeting Season, Transfiguration Sunday and Lent, I encourage you to take the time to get some perspective, to ponder ‘Why Church?’ and to be reminded of what the central things of faith are for us. 

Maybe that will be at our Soup+Bread study, maybe that will be by taking some time in prayer and scripture, maybe that is what we will be experiencing the entire Ash Wednesday-Lent-Holy Week cycle of worship or maybe it will be in another individual way. However you find that perspective, know that it will help you and us in following God’s call to whatever the church is going to go next, wherever God is calling us to follow in 2023 and beyond. 


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