Adapted from: TOMBSTONES to CORNERSTONES By Rick Krug
Hope and Help for Churches in Stress and Decline
Jason sat across from me at the dinner table with others and said, “Our congregation just keeps getting smaller and I don’t know how much longer we can hold out. I feel like we are just giving up on God. We can’t just quit, can we?” Jason’s words echoed the many conversations I have witnessed and engaged with members and leaders of struggling congregations over the past few years. What happens when your congregation seems to be free-falling with no end in sight?
Language matters. Language shapes reality and new possibilities.
“Our congregation is dying can be redeemed by “lets finish for the kingdom.”
I have run six marathons in my life. A marathon is a foot race of 26.2 miles. For me, coming in 1834th is not that brag worthy, but you know what I mean. There is, however, one fact of marathon running I can, with great reliability and assurance of truth, share with you: FINISH! At the very end of the course, there is a large flat pad on the ground that records the final time and above your head, stretched across the entire road is a sign with these six letters on it: F I N I S H. And you know what? I honor that sign. ALL the runners honor that sign. We all know this sign is telling us: YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE COURSE; NOW IT IS TIME TO STOP RUNNING. I have yet to see anyone, who upon passing under that sign, keeps on running down the street. Runners love that sign; best 6 letters EVER!!!
What does not happen after running 26.2 miles, at the end of a marathon; you don’t give up. When you cross the finish line – you don’t quit. When you cross under that sign that says FINISH, you are not failing, caving in, being a coward or a wimp, a living loser, or abandoning your dream.
That is the definition of “finish;” you have fulfilled, completed, accomplished, concluded your mission. There is no longer a need to continue doing what you have been doing for the past 26.2 miles of your life.
When a mission is fulfilled, it is finished!
Living in God’s kingdom, and living out what God has set before us, has a beginning and it will have an end. Like the marathon runner finishing a race, once the mission of the prophets and Hebrew people and nations were fulfilled, it was no longer necessary for them to continue to keep doing what their mission required.
Abraham did, in fact, become the father of many nations, thus fulfilling his mission, and he died. The Prophets obeyed the Holy Spirit’s leading and recorded the books of the Old Testament, fulfilling their mission, and they died. The Hebrew people did, in fact, bring forth the Son of God though the birth of Jesus. Jesus, when He hung on the cross, after living out His purpose on earth, uttered the words that echoed the sound of the starter’s gun in the garden of Eden: “It is finished!” which ushered the creation into reconciliation with the Creator.
All over America there are hundreds of congregations planted in the 1940’s through 1960’s who are in decline, struggling, and simply trying to hold on. In the back of all their minds is the fear that they are about to die, give up, quit, fail, or just walk away from God. The mind-set is one of letting God down – but it does not have to be. The sense is we might be giving up. But what if God had completed His work in their existence? What if God was now calling them to FINISH? Just as no one can attend any congregation Paul planted 2000 years ago, the kingdom of God is still alive.
Here’s a wild thought, what if we could help these congregations finish, recapture the collective resources of land and building, and plant new works in the name of God? What would that look like?
Imagine what it would be to go from being what feels like a TOMBSTONE, to being a CORNERSTONE for another work of God?
It can happen. Let’s talk about possibilities and resources for being a cornerstone church. Let the conversation begin.
“Tombstones to Cornerstones. Hope and Help for Churches in Stress and Decline”
Rick Krug – firstname.lastname@example.org