Had the best conversation today with a colleague about hope for the church. He was sharing about a meeting with a consultant where this question was asked - as the church, do you want to rust out or wear out?
I had to really think about what makes the difference. Rusting out brings to mind something sitting idle, possibly outside, in all kinds of weather, because it is either too broken to get in out of the rain, or too apathetic to make the effort. Rusting indicates un-use, un-care, and un-motivation.
But wearing out is different. Something is used so much it may get to where it just cannot go any longer. It brings to mind, however, the need for having regular maintenance to keep going (like worship, prayer, study). It brings to mind having the will (faith) to try for as long as possible. It brings to mind use, care and motivation.
Churches have life cycles just like anything else. Sometimes they die, either from rusting out or wearing out. However, someone with the gift of refurbishing can take what looks completely lost and turn it completely around. God can do that.
It also connects with the vision God gave to the prophet Ezekiel. In a valley full of dry bones, God’s breath and spirit revived them. The people of Israel were to hear about this and take it as a word of hope that their despair in exile in Babylon would one day end because of God’s spirit and love for them. The church should hear a similar word of hope, because, after all, it is God’s, too.