The church we used to attend is closing this week. I know it’s not a surprise to anyone who attended that church. Regular attendance a year ago was in the 20s, and 9 of them had the same last name I do. When we left last fall to answer my wife’s call to another local Nazarene congregation, I worried that New Life would close soon.
My wife and I spent almost ten years at New Life. Five of my seven children were dedicated there. I spent just about two-thirds of my Christian life there. It’s understandable that I feel some ties to that congregation.
I think the “whys” about the closing aren’t that important. The congregation and board tried for years with much prayer and thought to grow that church, but it didn’t grow, and I don’t know that it’s our fault. I don’t know that it’s God’s “fault,” either. God has plans for everything, and often we don’t know exactly what those plans are.
As I think about the last service in just a few days, I’m conflicted about attending, as is my wife. She feels, based on talking to a close friend, that it’s better that we not go. The District Superintendent asked the pastor if he wanted the District to come down and do anything for the last service, and Pastor said no. According to our friend, the overwhelming feeling is one of “let’s get this over with.”
I suppose if you look at the closing of a church as a failure, then maybe staying away is the right idea. I’m not sure that it’s a failure though. Certainly it’s a loss. Almost any time a church closes its doors, it’s a loss to the community. In this case though, the void created is being filled almost immediately by a spiritually similar congregation.
But I don’t think we should look at it as a failure, any more than we look at the death of a person as a failure. At a funeral we mourn the loss, but we also remember the good that person accomplished during their lifetime, and beyond. We honor a person at their funeral, and I think that’s important to do here as well.
I know of several people who were saved at New Life. My wife renewed her pastoral call there, and the pastor at New Life mentored her carefully. We made dear friends with several people there, and I found someone as well to mentor me in my Christian walk. Seeds were planted there, and that is very important. Some of those seeds fell on the path and were eaten by birds, as Mark 4 mentions. But much more fell on fertile ground and will produce a great crop, and that should be a source of great joy. We may never know in this lifetime how many lives were touched by that “little Nazarene church out by West Jeff,” but we should rest in the knowledge that many were touched and loved.
I think I will end up going to the last service, just as I would attend the funeral of a longtime friend. I’d go to a funeral to honor my friend and their family. I hope by attending the last service, I honor those who have been a part of New Life Church of the Nazarene.