The key to becoming a Spirit-energized, people-loving, life-giving, community-transforming congregation is really very simple. All you have to do is be willing to die.
— James A. Harnish, You Only Have to Die: Leading Your Congregation to New Life
I thought of this quote from a book I read last year while reading an excerpt from Jorge Acevedo’s new book in the UM Reporter. In the piece, he describes an “adoption” of a declining United Methodist congregation by Acevedo’s UMC mega-church. The night came for a vote: the church could close or become a campus of the larger Grace Church. The vote was 23 for adoption and 17 to close.
I thought of the quote in Harnish’s book when I read it. Here were people willing to see the church die rather than be reborn. I know Harnish does not use the phrase “willing to die” in these terms. In his book, he means willing to let go of things that are killing us and willing to take risks that may not work out.
But we do need to be aware that we have lots of people who would say they are willing to die. When they say that, though, what they mean is they have given up hope of new life or new birth. They’re stuck on Good Friday.