On an unusually warm winter day in Columbus, Nebraska, I found myself before an art display at Pawnee Park called the “Quincentenary Belltower.” It was dedicated in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the “new world.” The belltower housed ten bells within an “aesthetically pleasing structure” that went out horizontally from a center flag. On the wall that shielded the bells, a map of the historic journey from Europe to America was superimposed in metal for all to see.
What made this monument unique was not its design, but its materials. Each bell came from churches – Catholic and Protestant – throughout the area. Moreover, below each bell was a description of its history. Reading the descriptions closely, I noticed that every bell came from a church that no longer existed. Some of those churches burned down during the rather pioneer days of settlement. Others merged with larger or more successful churches. Still others met internal strife or financial collapse. No matter the bell, it came from a dead church.
The irony of this monument did not escape me. You see, it was right across the street from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, where Preparing for Amazement Ministries was helping a congregation develop healthy practices. Though they had unique challenges, that congregation shared similarities with many others in our country. They were facing the same death as those churches that once had bells that tolled on the hour. Yet, this death looks different. It is not so much a death from outside forces, but a resignation of those from the inside.
As we said last week, the church has not been immune to the great resignation of our country. People are reprioritizing and letting the chips fall where they will. Many are no longer seeing the church as a priority – at least the church as it has been. Gone are the days where people just endure the problems of the church for the sake of their faith. They can find life-giving teaching and preaching anywhere. Gone are the days where people gather because they want to be around people who think and believe as they do. They can form their own “village” or community as they see fit.
So, what are we to do? It is simple to understand but hard to do: we must change. We must follow where the Spirit is leading the church. The hard reality of our current age is that the Spirit may be leading the church outside its normal way of doing things. You know what? That’s okay! Because transforming life comes to those who follow God. That is what Amazed Ministries is doing: helping people, pastors, and congregations discover where the Spirit is transforming things for their community. Join us, won’t you?
Nate Whittaker, Coach