Blog Post by the Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy Transitional Leader
This past week I flew out to California and drove back to St. Louis with Marilyn. We took our time traversing the 1800 miles. We even stopped in Santa Fe to renew our wedding vows! It was an amazing day, and the drive from California was an amazing route through a diverse terrain.
While driving, I can experience the breath of our country from the west coast to the Midwest. We begin with the mountains of California and drive through the deserts of Arizona. The further we drive east, the dryer the climate becomes and the sparser the landscape. By the time we leave New Mexico headed toward Texas, the heat has reached close to 100 and there are patches of wild grass, bone-dry land, with very few trees. Things begin to improve in Oklahoma as the rain falls and the topography turns greener. By the time we reach Missouri, the landscape is lush with rolling hills covered by flourishing trees. The beauty of the Ozarks is something to behold.
And I’m thinking about churches.
There was a time when the denomination planted churches, they grew like trees in Missouri. The climate was right. the weather had moisture and the soil was rich. It took work to grow a church. But society also encouraged people to attend church, there were blue laws, and pastors were respected leaders in the community.
In the monograph Courage, Gil Rendle writes, “It was in the mid 20th century time that the mainline church, like so many other institutions and organizations, aggressively pursued growth, bureaucratic structure and strength, as well as resource and property development. We became large, strong, and institutional in a cultural moment that favored large, strong and institutional.”
Today is a much dryer climate. It not only takes work, but skill to plant, nurture, and grow a church. Instead of support, society competes with the church from soccer matches to Cardinal games. Pastors are still respected, but their voice and opinions are not sought after, and their leadership is often not requested.
And this is the environment God has called us to. This is our time, and location; our climate and soil. I believe God has equipped us and given us the tools and skills to prosper. We are surrounded by other supporting leaders who surround us and care for us. We may not look like the church of the 1950s, but we are the church the world needs in this day and time.
Rev. Craig M. Howard