Worship: questioning the value of any congregation

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WWe did the first five. According to Kev’s Best online journal, the church I serve as pastor made the list of the five best churches in Dallas based on criteria such as company history, services, images and media, hours of operation, social media, website quality, awards and achievements, reviews and comments, among others.

The top five churches on the list have little in common in terms of denominational identity, theological commitments, or missionary commitment. They are a strange group with one factor in common: size.

I’m always happy when people rank us very high in any way, but how do we rate religious communities?

There are many beautiful churches and other religious congregations in Dallas. I hope our members and other community members have a positive view of who we are and what we do. But we are human beings who disappoint each other more often than I would like. For all the great reviews we could receive, there are some people our church falls short of. I regret it deeply, but I understand it too.

Many churches are smaller and just as faithful. They do not have the resources that we are blessed with and that allow us to deliver ministries that others cannot afford. No church can meet everyone’s earthly needs, yet many churches can still meet heaven’s standards.

When thinking about the value of a congregation, there are factors that are not included in Kev’s Best and that should be considered. Here are a few.

First, is the congregation true to its primary spiritual identity? Regardless of denomination, fidelity to the basic theological commitments of the church is crucial. The reason for its existence is usually rooted in covenant statements about God and what faith requires. If a church holds fast to these things, it has reason to celebrate its life.

Second, does the congregation have a witness in the world that is consistent with the teaching of loving one’s neighbor as oneself? Churches do not exist just for themselves; they are supposed to have a profound influence on the communities in which they are found. It can involve charitable work that alleviates the plight of the poor and excluded, or it can also include work for justice and the transformation of civic life for the common good.

Finally, and more difficult yet, does the church show that it changes over time in a way that maintains its vitality without giving up its core identity? Willem de Kooning, the abstract expressionist artist once said, “I have to change to stay the same. If a church looks and behaves more representative of the 1950s than the 2020s, it is hardly relevant. The goal is to stay true to the old faith today.

Dallas is fortunate to have many excellent Christian churches and other religious congregations that do a good and faithful job. The disruptive COVID-19 pandemic has added to the burden of maintaining healthy ministries today. We must pray for one another while persevering.

Competition between churches is less useful than cooperation between us.

GEORGES MAÇON is pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, president of Faith Commons and host of the “Good God” podcast. The Worship section is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and the neighborhood businesses and churches listed here. For more information on how to help support the Worship Section, call 214.560.4202.

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