Live like you are dying

Posted by Jerry Roth on

I have always envied the creativity of newspaper headline writers as they seek to catch our attention and encourage us to read the associated article. This one quickly enticed me to read on:

Struggling Maplewood church finds new life by living 'like you are dying'

I soon found myself wandering through interviews with members of Christ United Methodist Church in Maplewood Minnesota. As noted in the article, their church was “facing a slow death” due to declining membership. Even though they have fewer than 100 members, they represent a major segment of Christian churches in the U.S. In their major church demographic study, The State of the Church 2016, Barna Research noted that “Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members.

Thinking that the end of their church was near, they “decided to let the Holy Spirit show us where to go and follow without reservation.” Seeking the wisdom of the Spirit, they turned to a rich source of spiritual wisdom, country music. In the words of country music star Tim McGraw, they were going to “live like they were dying.” As I have noted in earlier blogs, sometimes the Spirit whispers in our ear. Evidently, sometimes the Spirit sings us a song.

In my blog post, Intentional Disciples, author Danah Himes shared this wisdom, “Remind your church members that they can be more effective missionaries in their workplaces and neighborhoods than any pastor, because they have the relationships and therefore the voice. Equip believers to communicate the gospel message and share their faith rather than just encouraging them to invite people to church.”

And so the members of Christ United Methodist reached out to their neighbor, Highwood Hills Elementary School. As a public school of 300 mostly immigrant children, it provided many opportunities for the church members to support the school. Their care included making and serving meals to busy teachers, buying T-shirts for students with the new school logo, and establishing a “peacemaker’s program”.

A church lay leader noted, “That relationship surprised us, the way we were so embraced.” Reflecting the wisdom described in Himes comments, church members believe that they are called to live out their faith in the neighborhood. Not only have they supported the school teachers and students, they have also forged a relationship with the Islamic Society of Woodbury.

Besides forming new relationships in their community, they are also seeing new members inspired by their neighborhood missions. Their pastor, Rev. Rachael Warner, commented, “We have really come alive. I hope other small churches look outside themselves, and see what God might be pushing them to be.” My belief is that the Spirit is whispering, or singing, this guiding wisdom to all of our churches, no matter their size.

The Center for Parish Leadership is available to assist you with key staff & leadership development activities. Please contact us to discuss how we can uniquely support your staff and leaders. If you would like to read previous Weekly Research Updates, you will find them on our website blog.


Jerry Roth

Research Analyst

The Center for Parish Leadership


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