By J.C. Mitchell
The Muppets are returning and we are excited in my house. Well, my wife and I are; our son knows very little about the Muppets, having even missed Muppet Babies. He has been told he will be watching it, but of course he will ultimately be the one in control. It will either be entertaining on its own, or entertaining to criticize it. I look forward to that show coming into the home again as I remember watching it in our basement in Connecticut on a black and white television.
However, is not my biggest complaint about the church the line “we have always done it that way?” That, too, must be driven by the same nostalgia that excites me about puppeteers reenacting old characters and ultimately old jokes.
Many churches are stuck on their 11pm sitcom. They repeat it over and over, and with or without an endowment will determine how long the show will continue to air. Every so often there may be an interruption for a joy (a new program, a new active family or group, a new pastor, etc…) or crisis (“we interrupt to bring you breaking news”). Sometimes there are the great “Kermits” out there that start revitalization of the church in a new way with the old structures. A revitalized church with an individualized plan may be more sustainable, but too often it ends up being more about the community that grew, than the world we must change.
When was the list of a sustainable church read with these markers?
Congregants arrested for shielding mosque (or other awesome SJ acts)
Helped establish healthcare for all
Homelessness eliminated in the locale
Prisons are shrinking
Work against (internally and externally) racism, sexism, and ableism, as part of the daily struggle
Lives are changed in the neighborhood
The naked (who want to be clothed) are clothed
Instead I am asked about these markers:
Number of members (worshipping, active, etc.)
Number of those people you serve (outreach)
Building looks wonderful
Young families engaged
Funds brought in
The resurrection will not be televised, for it must come from something new out of the death of the old, and it will look nothing like what it was. Only in our own scars, the scars on the Body of Christ, will we know we are in that new place, called out to be that love that is so shocking. Jesus reminds us when he speaks of the contractor who hired day laborers outside the home improvement store, and paid them all equally despite picking workers at various times. And when those paid what they agreed to for the entire day saw those who worked a fraction of the time, they were asked by Jesus, “…are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’”(Matthew 20:15b).
“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.” Jim Henson stated what he knew in his gut, and truly the church cannot simply be a new episode, or even a new fancy movie, it must be start new in one’s gut before it can grow like a blackberry bush you planted in your garden.