Book Review: Gil Rendle. Journey in the Wilderness: New Life for the Mainline Churches. Abingdon Press, 2010. (Available for Kindle).
This quote is the first paragraph of Rendle’s reflection on the mainline churches today:
“People no longer join congregations because they want relationships or because they want to “belong.” As far as relationships that serve as social friendships, increasingly people already have as many as their time and lifestyle allow. Rather than simply seeking social relationships for which there is less room in a harried contemporary lifestyle, people now come to congregations because they want a purposeful relationship with others who are seeking a purpose and meaning in response to the questions they feel in their lives. For many the function of relationships in congregations has now shifted from being only social to being also purposeful. This shift that removes the congregation from its position as a central institution that provides friendships out of which members then shape a personal identity is difficult news to many congregations, which continue to think of their only strength as being warm and friendly relationship providers.”
I believe the simple idea presented here is stunning if we ponder what Rendle is truly saying. How many of our churches are still motivated by the desire to be friendly and attractive while not truly being about a “purposeful relationship” with Christ?
What is the purpose of your congregation? Is that clear when people walk in the door? Is your congregation excited about that purpose? These are hard questions. These are difficult questions. But the answers to these questions may define whether or not your congregation will survive this wilderness time.