Today I drove through a small town in Central Pennsylvania where I saw, along a semi-depressed Main Street, the local branch of the Moose Lodge housed in a store front. A sign in the window said, "New Members Welcome." New Members. Why would new members come to this Moose Lodge? The plaster moose head on the building’s facade was chipping paint, and there was no indication on the building or signage of what the Moose Lodge was or why I would want to join it. In fact, the odd and unkempt fake animal head and the mystery of fraternal lodges may make many people walk directly past this building without even considering membership.
Are our churches like this Moose Lodge? Do we ask people to be members, without really explaining what it means? Do we have odd and unkempt artifacts hanging from our facades or naves or altars or hymnal racks? Do we simply beg to survive rather than seek to thrive? Do people walk past (or through) our buildings every week and not understand what we’re about?
If our churches are simply looking to maintain institutions (ie, increase membership), we’re doomed. If we’re looking to offer meaning and purpose and a Way of life for all, then then we’re on the right track.