This is perhaps the most challenging time the church has faced in recent years. We have conflicting outlooks on what is important between generations. We have a distrust of institutions. We have a future that seems cloudy and we don’t face it with confidence. And we have people who have traditionally given greatly to the church both in time and finances pulling back. In response, the people who are active in the church are scrambling and looking for answers. And for some, the answer is to try to recreate the church as they remembered it. Remake the church from a happier time, an easier time, and certainly a time when the church had lots of people in it (all ready to help with whatever project we put our minds to do). But that is a fruitless quest to try to go backwards, and even if we could, it certainly is not the church that God calls us to build today.
What the church needs is:
a) Men and women who will give church its proper priority in their lives and in their family’s lives. A mantra I have heard since I entered the ministry is, “Everybody’s busy.” And it is true that we all are. But not all things are equally important. Church is not just one of a laundry list of things to do. Gathering to worship God and share the Good News needs to be a priority in every Christian life.
b) For the men and women who will make it a priority, we need to ask what the best way we have to convey the dynamic relevance of Jesus Christ to the people around us. Too often, we build programs that look eerily similar to the ones we did the year before, and the year before, and the year before. It might connect with us who are here but is it connecting to the people around us?
c) A community that makes “the least of these” the most important. A community that will say, for example, “the most important Christian Education we are doing is the faith we are passing on to the younger generation.” A community that will say, “when we give in mission, we want to make sure hungry are getting fed, naked are getting clothed, and thirsty are getting something to drink.” When we worship that the youngest people in the church are saying, “Wow!” not “when is church going to be over?”
d) A community that accepts that not everyone will want to do these things and be at peace with it. If some want to run off and try to recreate the church of 1970, we have to be at peace with that. If some want to just stop by church once an hour once a week (or less) we have to be at peace with that. If some are not interested “in the least of these” we have to be at peace with that. And if some folks see church as purely a social venue we can be good with that too. But such points of view should never set our agenda.
It is time in churches across the land to look at everything we do in church from worship, to education, to mission, to communal activities and ask ourselves, “How is this moving us forward?” “How is this bringing glory to God?” “How is this giving the people who stop by a glimpse of God’s coming kingdom?”
Let us move forward. Our society needs a dynamic church pointing the way forward as never before. Let us live up to our potential. And may faith, not fear, guide our response.
Until next time,