In our changing world, it has often been said that churches are failing.  People point to decreases in attendance for churches of all denominations, many closing churches, and the increasing number of people who identify themselves as non-religious.  It is certainly a challenging time to be the church, but I cannot say that I think that churches are failing.

First of all, the measure of success of a church is not the number of people in the pews.  Tracking numbers can help understand the organization of a congregation, how many people there are to participate in ministry, or other important things about the life of the church, but not success.  Jesus says nothing of success to the disciples, but simply to go share the good news and make disciples.

Second, the church will continue to exist and serve, even if it continues to shrink.  The early Christian church was certainly a minority in the Roman culture.  If the church can survive having its members thrown to the lions for believing in Christ, I think the church will weather the post-modern era of doubt and suspicion.

Finally, we ARE the church.  It’s not some building or corporation that we go to.  The church is the people of God, doing God’s work in the world.  Should we lose all our buildings, land, and treasure, we the church will continue to minister to a broken world.  We would probably be much less effective, but we would certainly continue.

I feel blessed to be a part of the community and part of the church that is the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit.  This is a congregation that is certainly busy and active in the world.  Our support for Angel Network helped give out 130 baskets with supplies for families in need, and we are looking to do so again in another month.  We are supporting the Arusha Hospital in Tanzania that is in need of medical supplies and equipment.  We send youth and adults through Project Help, the National Youth Gathering, and the Lutheran Disaster Response to help rebuild areas and homes that are in need.

What do you think is going to happen with our congregation and/or the wider church in the immediate future?  What would you say makes church successful?  (comments link is at top of post)