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Be Like Moss

From Dormancy to Revival: Learning from Mosses to Sustain the Church

Imagine walking through a dense forest. The trees tower above you, their branches creating a lush canopy. The air is cool and damp, and the ground beneath your feet is soft with moss. Mosses, those tiny green plants, cover rocks and tree trunks, creating a carpet of life. They seem delicate, yet they hold a secret to survival that we can learn from.

Mosses are fascinating organisms. Unlike the towering trees around them, they don’t need deep roots or extensive soil. They can survive in the harshest of conditions, enduring long periods without water. When the rains come, they spring back to life, vibrant and green. This incredible resilience offers us a powerful lesson, especially for the church in today’s world.

We are living in a time where church attendance and affiliation are declining. Many churches are struggling to maintain their large buildings and complex structures. It feels like a drought. But just like moss, the church can find ways to survive and even prepare for future growth during these challenging times.

 Let me tell you a story about a patch of moss. In a forest I visited, there was a rock completely covered in moss. During the dry season, the moss appeared lifeless. It turned brown and brittle, seemingly dead. But when the rains returned, something magical happened. The moss soaked up the water and within hours, it was lush and green again, full of life. It had conserved its energy, waiting for the right moment to thrive.

How does moss manage this incredible feat? Mosses have a unique ability called desiccation tolerance. During dry periods, they lose almost all their water content and enter a state of suspended animation. Their cellular structures, the smallest units in already very small plants, contract and protect themselves from damage. When water becomes available again, they rehydrate rapidly, repairing any damage and resuming their metabolic functions almost immediately. This process allows them to survive and recover from conditions that would be fatal to most plants.

 Mosses thrive in a variety of environments because they are adaptable. They don’t need much to survive. Similarly, the church can benefit from a minimalist and adaptable approach. Instead of investing heavily in maintaining large, underutilized buildings, we can focus on more flexible and lean structures that work with individual relationships, the smallest of the small units of ministry.

 Imagine small, adaptable spaces for worship and community activities. Think about the potential of digital platforms that allow us to gather virtually, reaching a wider audience without the need for physical infrastructure. Picture a “congregation” where every interaction and relationship become the most important thing, not just a means to some larger program.

During dry spells, mosses go dormant, conserving their energy until conditions improve. The church can do the same by focusing on its core functions: spiritual nourishment, community support, and social outreach. By prioritizing these essential activities, we can maintain our vital role in people’s lives without overextending our resources.

Just as moss can appear lifeless during droughts, the church may need to accept periods of lower visibility and reduced activity as a natural part of its lifecycle. This dormant period is not a sign of failure but a strategic refocusing that conserves energy and resources.

During this time, we can concentrate on building and nurturing a resilient core community of believers committed to our long-term vision. Investing in leadership development ensures that we have well-prepared leaders ready to guide the way when the time comes to expand. Quiet, meaningful community outreach maintains our presence and fosters goodwill without the need for large-scale programs.

When the rains return, mosses quickly revive and flourish. The church can also position itself for renewal by preparing for future growth and engagement. Keeping our vision and mission alive, continuously communicating hope and potential for future growth, is crucial.

Building adaptable and scalable systems around relationships based in listening allows us to quickly expand when resources and opportunities become available. Staying connected with the broader community helps us understand their needs and desires, so we’re ready to meet them when the time is right.

Mosses teach us that survival during tough times is not about trying to sustain the unsustainable but about embracing adaptability, focusing on core strengths, and preparing for renewal. 

The church, facing its own era of declining attendance and affiliation, can learn from this resilient plant. By maintaining a core presence, and investing in meaningful, individual connections, we ensure that we can weather the drought and be ready to flourish when the rains return. This approach will enable us to continue our mission and impact, even in the face of challenging times.

So, let us take a lesson from the moss. Let us adapt, focus on deep relational ministry, and prepare for the future. By doing so, we can not only survive but thrive, bringing life and hope to our communities, ready for the rains that will surely come again.

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