In the story of David and Goliath, Saul famously insisted that David be outfitted in his own kingly armor. While this was a generous gesture, David found that he could hardly move. Rejecting the clunky armor, David retrieved five smooth stones for his sling.
Many North American congregations are like David, limited by the armor of previous generations—namely, impressive church buildings that are much-loved symbols of the church’s history and role in the community but are now a liability. Often the mission of such churches becomes mainly that of maintaining the building, updating it to meet safety and accessibility requirements and paying the rising cost of heating—all with the resources of a declining membership.
Anthony B. Robinson is president of Seattle-based Congregational Leadership Northwest and coauthor, with Robert W. Wall, of Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day (forthcoming from Eerdmans).