February 2024 Connection

“Stable Churches”

I recently read an article about churches that said “the era of the stable church is gone.” At first, I assumed it was going to articulate something about the Bethlehem stable and some sort of decline in Christmas nativity scenes on church lawns, or something of the sort. But it didn’t. Instead, it offered an insight that I simply haven’t considered. It pointed out that churches are either thriving or declining – growing or deteriorating. The idea of having a church that just remains “stable,” unchanging, and steadfast in a community without growing or dying is a thing of the past.
Now, let me be clear: I don’t write this with a sense of doom and gloom. This is not intended to be read with dread or anxiety. Instead, my hope is that you’ll read it with joy, possibility, and the impulse to dream, act, and be a part of something amazing. What I want to do is share with you some really important observations about Grand Blanc UMC and how we are not merely existing as a stable church, but thriving as a growing, serving, and hope-filled church.
1. Sometimes we find ourselves perhaps a bit too analytical, to our own detriment. We measure growth in the church by a sum number of active members, and in doing so we forget some fundamental principles of our faith. For instance, I have a good friend who shared with me that his church welcomed 11 new members in the same year that they held funeral services for 12 of their long-time members. On their year end report, the analytics calculated a year of decline. But those numbers ultimately lie to us. We forget that those 12 members who have joined the saints of God had contributed to years of ministry and, despite their having died, continue to be a part of the church as they join the “great cloud of witnesses.” The new members the church added simply (though wonderfully) became part of the church on earth as in heaven. Through the witness of that church in that particular community, the church grew!
Here at GBUMC, we have said goodbye to beloved saints of the church who now rest from their labors with God. And yet, this past year, we have welcomed new members, welcomed guests, and have been a part of growing the church. In other words, GBUMC is a growing church!
2. Churches that are missional, thriving, and growing, happen to find themselves financially strong. And there is a very real correlation between the two! I was once acquainted with a small congregation that had a beautiful history of serving their community. It was never a big church, but it loved its community. Over time, the community changed, as communities tend to do, and it began to “circle the wagons,” so to speak. Missions and generosity took a back seat to balancing a budget. Sunday mornings became more about maintaining tradition than it was about worship. Even ideas for jump starting some new vitality were ignored for fear that it might be too hard and too different. The giving in the church continued to dwindle to the point that the biggest giver was a local community member who was not a member, but whose parents had attended the church years prior.

That particular congregation lost its missional identity.  It traded growth and the possibility for the certainty of what seemed like stability.  Ultimately, the excitement to be generous dwindled to next to nothing for a church that was no longer thriving.

In my time at GBUMC, I have seen the opposite happening.  I have seen ministry that is resilient and exciting.  I have seen generosity that defies the challenges many churches have faced.  I have witnessed dreaming that is daring, bold, and full of vitality!  In 2023, we closed the year with giving that surpassed our expected income, more than met our budget, and sets us up for a wonderful start of 2024.  By all accounts (pun intended), Grand Blanc UMC is thriving, and your generosity is just one sign of that. 

  1. Grand Blanc UMC has, as part of its DNA, a welcoming and hospitable spirit. I will share with you, and probably not for the first time, that I am regularly told by guests, especially on Sunday mornings, how much they appreciate the warm and authentic welcome they feel while here at church.  Hospitality is, believe it or not (though, I hope you will) a very big part of the Gospel message.  Making space for others in our lives is central to what it means to be a Christian.  And this responsibility belongs not just to the ushers, the greeters, the Coffee Hour volunteers, the staff, or me, the pastor.  Rather, it belongs to each us!  Growing, thriving, missional, Gospel-centered churches, make space for others and demonstrate an authentic welcoming spirit!


Grand Blanc UMC is not a stable church.  We are growing.  We are thriving.  We are living out what it means to be the church!  It is my privilege to be a part of it alongside each of you, and I truly look forward to all this year will bring!


Pastor Brian

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