Considering the notion of church sustainability automatically directs many solely to economics. However, for most churches, sustainability exists beyond budgets for property, salaries and overhead. With accusations of foul play behind the pulpit and current economic hardships forcing many churches to reconsider how they “do business,” does the church have the ability to bounce back from these adversities?
“The church serves as the GPS for people who believe in God therefore it is a relevant path for people to become better,” says 40-year-old Kevin Tyler, member of The Emmanuel Christian Community Church in Baltimore.
While Kevin’s convictions keep him both grounded and engaged, Baltimore’s churches struggle to revive the spirit of a dying historical foundation; the life force which lies within the community and the heart of the people.
With so many churches lining the streets of Baltimore, why then are communities disengaged? Baltimore community members agree that the churches constant shifting spiritual beliefs, diminishing morals, increased predatory leadership, and decreased community accountability as well as religious and generational divides do in fact leave the traditional church facing extinction.
Rasta Josiah X, 24-year-old Baltimorean says he did not grow up in church. “The fact is I am a spiritual being. I like being by myself and see no need to congregate or attend church. It’s solitude that assists me in development. I listen to the inner voice and it guides me,” states Josiah.
Declining memberships have Pastors strategically reorganizing outreach ministries, partnerships, membership retention and essentially, projects including expansion.
“There are a lot of churches, yet our city has many distressed communities. This issue comes from a spiritual place – a place of not knowing – a place of not being properly fed spiritually.”announces 34-year-old Erica Dennis of Baltimore.
This spiritual starvation translates into crime, drug addiction, prostitution, gangs, and dilapidated buildings. Though easily ponded as city or state issues, many look to their faith as a bridge to rehabilitating Baltimore’s less sustained communities.
Marlo Hargrove Sr., member of the Church of the Redeemed of the Lord in Baltimore says his church is a self-sustaining entity due in part to its community outreach, counseling, soup kitchen and prison ministry. “This is a holistic ministry. We go out to meet the needs of the people,” declares Mr. Hargrove.
While many Baltimore churches struggle with innovation, others such as; The Empowerment Temple, New Psalmist and Shiloh move towards relevancy in the community through the use of text message systems, increased emails and social media sites.
Ms. Dennis concludes her assessment by saying, “Our ideas of religion should be updated with spiritual transformation. It is important to reassess issues at the root and not at the surface, taking personal responsibility without casting blame. If churches update their idea of spirituality then everything else will fall into place.”
The Fact remains, community members desire fully-engaged churches committed to the betterment of the community in which they reside, therefore, church sustainability has less to do with building size, carpet color or church politics, but rather, the ability for a church to immerse itself into the fabric of the community, adequately meeting the needs of the people.