As I drove away, I found my heart hurting, my mind whirling, and felt the urge to cry. Not the crying that one feels when you lost someone or something you know, but the crying that comes from feeling the pain of losing something you never knew. I pulled out of the sleepy little town not too far away and drove down the country roads towards home, but the story really begins with my alarm.
The only thing that could possibly make me want to set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning was a sale … and even more alluring was that it was a sale at a church.
But this sale was different. This was a “final” sale that was listed at the top of the want ads. Formerly known as a busy church in the 1940’s, 1960’s and beyond, the church had been sitting empty of worship for the past eight years because it’s congregants joined with a neighboring church. It meant the end of another era. I knew it meant another little building was closing its doors to the Life of Church, and its windows and walls would never be the same. It was a final inventory sale and I wanted to take inventory of what was happening.
In today’s society, more and more people are walking away. They’re not just walking away from attending church, but they’re walking away from their faith. Recently reported on the ten o’clock news, people age 18-33 were surveyed and said that although they grew up in a “Christian” home, they don’t consider themselves Christians. What’s happening to us?
Here’s a thought … we’re so busy running our children, grandchildren, and ourselves to get to everything we think is important, that we have put Christ at the bottom of the list. In a society where our grandparents and parents lived to go to church, made the church their social life, and made God someone who was in school, in church, in the grocery store, and on the radio/tv, we have pleasantly and complacently shrugged our shoulders, been bullied and said, “Oh, okay … whatever.” Whatever is the word of the day. Look it up in our dictionary and see all of our faces listed in the description.
But let me get back to the church building itself. Sweet, hardwood floors, lovely beams on the ceiling, plush carpets, lovely kitchen, offices, and basement were all desperately crying out to my soul as I looked around at the sale items. Yes, I found things like oak chairs for $3.00 and a fabulous milk can for $6.00, but nothing comforted the deep sadness that overcame me when the sweet owners said someone was moving in to make it their home.
Where were the congregants? Why was their church home now a literal home? They died off? They no longer attend? No pastor would come out to the middle of nowhere to preach?
The doors are closing because society is shifting. God is being tagged at a sale and offered up to the needy buyer who wants to shuffle Him to their garage and bring Him out when needed.
[callout]No longer can we find God in our schools, in our conversations, and in our busy weeks as He once was, but He is tucked away neatly in the boxes that say, “Heirlooms.”[/callout]
As I drove away, I wept. Not for myself, but for every single soul that lined those pews in 1940. I cried for every single life that was changed, for every prayer spoken and every song sung. And although I’ll be grateful for the kind owners who kept it immaculate over the past few years, and for the young man who will make it his home, I will remain concerned and confused as to the direction we now take in today’s world. After all, what will happen to other little churches next week and the week after that and the week after that?