Busy Dying

book clubs & churches - same witness problem

If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.
- Bob Dylan 

Any local church whose leaders and congregational culture is seeking first, to cater to its current members, and second, to preserve its assets, is already digging its own grave. These two priorities are the hall marks of organizations that are preparing to die. It doesn’t matter if the organization is a political party, a social club like the Elks, a trade union, or a local church. Once the governing board reduces their principle interests to membership happy, maintaining physical assets like buildings, and protecting the organization’s savings account, the handwriting is on the wall. From time to time, pastors need to find gentle ways to remind their church council that the same rules that govern other organizations also apply to the church. 

    Consider two book clubs:
In the first, the people who attend the book club, at the end of each meeting, vote as to which book they shall read and discuss at their next gathering. In this club, new members tend to be people who have been personally invited by a friend who is a member. From time to time there may be a straggler who drops in because they have an interest in this month’s book, but when the topic for the next month is discussed they are not likely to feel included and will soon drop out if the next book doesn’t interest them. To make matters worse, no one takes responsibility for contacting infrequent attenders to inform them of the next month’s selection. Many churches are like this. They have exhausted their new member pool, no one is having children and the members canvased all of their unchurched friends. They wait to die by attrition.

In the same town there may be another book club. This club selects its books from the New York Times best seller list and frequently advertises its program choice at the local library. They also choose discussion leaders who are skillful at including the timid newcomers. They email everyone the list of future selections and provide links and reviews for those who miss the program but still want to do the reading. Unlike the dying club above, this book club welcomes those who use e-format book readers. From time to time, this club explores the option of birthing another club, perhaps in a different location or with a different target audience. This club is busy being born, whereas the other one is busy dying.

Which book club is more like your church?