Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Every other month I meet with the large church pastors in our presbytery over lunch. This month it was decided to eat at Pappy’s, the popular barbeque restaurant near St. Louis University campus. I will admit that St. Louis has some of the best barbeque in the country. Yes, even better than Chicago and Kansas City!
Over burnt ends and hot sausage, we had an open discussion around church growth. We talked about streaming media, projectors and screens, messaging and signage. But the entire conversation was reduced to a simple question, “What is the purpose of the church?” One pastor shared how a parishioner wept because the pastor said their name while serving communion. “Sally, this is the body of Christ broken for you.” She said how that made it personal and how she felt seen, known, and loved. The other pastors chimed in emphasizing that our faith is all about relationships.
They talked about the challenge of getting members to invite others to church.
The more we talked, the fog of the future church became clearer. As we discussed our Presbyterian niche or market, we realized that the best thing we have to offer is the grace of God. “We are a unique people. We are different from the Methodist or Baptist because God has called us and loved us from the foundations of the world. This is the message we need to express with our congregations and have our members share with their friends. They need to hear they are loved by a gracious God who welcomes them.”
Sometimes it’s so simple. All of our buildings, organs, choir robes, and stained glass are beautiful. These things are good. But what people want is to know there is a God who sees them and loves them and that they are welcome to experience that God through the people in our churches. Welcome the visitor. Share our names. Tell the story of the living God in our lives. And just like the church on Pentecost, day by day God will add to our numbers those who are being saved.
Rev. Craig M. Howard