Zombie Church Apocalypse

I’m a fan of the zombie movie genre. What is impressive is that, despite several generations of zombie movies and books, the people in the movies are always caught by surprise.  Very few of them survive the zombie outbreak despite the fact that many of them presumably are familiar with the basic concept.  Our capacity to remain rooted where we are despite intellectually understanding the need for drastic action is apparently rather impressive.

That came to mind yesterday listening to our District President discuss the state of the Church in our part of the country.  In the last 16 years, out of roughly 330 congregations, we’ve gone from 10 congregations not being able to afford to Call a permanent, full-time pastor to well over 40.  We continue to mirror the steady decline of American Christianity.  So we gather in conferences like this one to exhort each other to keep preaching the Good News.  Which is what we do.  We listen to the statistics, we nod our heads sagely and shake them in disappointment.  And then we go back to our offices and sanctuaries and do the same thing this week that we did last week, and the same thing next week as we did two weeks ago.  Our capacity to remain rooted where we are despite intellectually understanding the need for drastic action is apparently rather impressive.

We know what will happen if we don’t move.  But we’re stuck, rooted in our routines and traditions, unable to even imagine what something different would look like.  Unable to come to grips with the loss and destruction of much of what we’ve loved, and certainly our comfort.  We continue to placate ourselves and one another that maybe it’s not really as bad as all that.  Maybe they’ll find the cure.  Maybe it won’t come down to leaving what I’ve known all my life for something radically different that ensures I remain alive.

Those are the folks who inevitably end up eating brains or taking a bullet to the head by the end of the movie.  Tragic, of course, but what can you do?  There isn’t enough time to grieve.  Grief becomes a luxury that pales compared with the very real work of staying alive.  And the Church will continue to watch congregations falter and collapse.  Tragic victims of many different circumstances, but likely all at some level to do with not being willing or able to act radically enough, quickly enough, to stay alive.

I don’t know for sure that this is the common thread.  It’s comforting to think so because then it means that perhaps I and my congregation will not suffer the same fate.  But it’s possible to act decisively and quickly, but in the completely wrong direction.  It’s possible to turn a blind corner and be overwhelmed.  Motion itself is not the answer.  And so I can’t take easy comfort in being willing to move, but I still ought to try.  So I tell myselves and others that any movement at all towards the future is better than standing still where we are.

I just need to remember that when I get back to my office.  And continue to figure out how to communicate that to the people around me in my congregation.  The world is changing.  The odds of us being able to remain the way we like and are comfortable with are pretty slim.  Let’s figure out what we need to survive, and what will help us rebuild.

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