As a kind of liturgy, I stand before our five-year-old church every September and ask a question: "Should we continue to exist as a church for another year?" You can hear pins drop every time.
The entire community—new comers, old comers, elders, parents—are always caught off guard by my question. Surveying the faces, I can see their intuitive responses. I enjoy the awkwardness. They think that something tragic has happened. Is he quitting? Is he rejecting the Trinity? Is there some glaring moral failure we're about to hear?
Of course the answers are always no. But it's that immediate, guttural reaction of uncertainty that I'm after; even if for a moment everyone imagines worst-case scenarios. For me, there's intention and rationale behind simply asking the "should we?" question about our future.
As the pastor, I never want to assume that we should keep our ministry going just to keep it going. I desire Jesus to breathe freshly into us each year. Now, I certainly hope that our folks affirm our existence. I hope that they say yes, we should continue for another year. But it appeals to me to ask if God wants the same thing.
No ministry is permanent. It strikes me that not a single church St. Paul planted claims to be in existence to this day. Even the best churches with the best church planters will eventually close their doors. God is eternal, not his local churches.
Pushing further, I don't think it's unfair to suggest that there are a great number of churches now open that ought to shut down. Likewise, there are many churches that are closed that should not have given up.
Because no ministry is permanent, it's our job to discern if we're to continue for a year in, year out basis. That's why I ask the question. Every year. ...