The Issues at Hand

Grace and peace to you through Jesus Christ. It is my hope that this blog becomes a conversation starter for a discussion on how we can be a more authentic and effective community of faith together in this place.

Faith has become like a dessert for the average Christian in our culture. It has ceased to be the main course, and communities of faith are regarded more and more as totally optional enterprises in our worship of God. Also, some faith communities have either allowed themselves to become co-opted by a particular political or social agenda or totally divorced themselves from the issues of the day. We can hardly offer people a foretaste of the coming Kingdom when we become overly-wedded to worldly kingdoms and their leaders.  At the same time, we become just a social or history club if the world around us and its problems become irrelevant to us.  Involvement in our world and its issues should be a foregone conclusion. But what is motivating us? Are issues from the outside leading us or is Christ leading us to speak to the issues (and get involved)?

It seems that churches are frequently confused. We are wise enough to know that we need to change, but we can’t seem to find the right direction.  Many are advocating change in the church and urging that if we don’t change we will die off.  But many of these same advocates seem more focused on what I would call “redocarating” than on trying to get the church back on track. I don’t believe “radical redocorating” (by tossing our heritage) is the answer.  Do you agree?

Many of these advocates for change seem to have more of an axe to grind over the way we do things (procedurally) than over anything else.  And I don’t mean by this challenging the procedures I am used to in church (I am Presbyterian).  If I were a Methodist, for example, and someone advocated tossing the idea of listening to a bishop, my question would be “Why?”  How does following the guidance of a bishop prevent me as a Methodist from hearing Christ’s call?”

Perhaps a refocus is in order. The church needs to get back to offering people a genuine answer to how they can find a fuller life in this 21st century world and make a difference if they put Christ first.  How do you think can we do that?

The church does need to change, but not in the trendy ways you find advocated by many Christian writers.  How would you suggest we change?

Here are some ideas I have:

1. Stop dividing ourselves and work together more.  The world does not need more Christian denominations. The work of the church is greatly diminished by the repetitive work done by very similar groups of Christians less than a mile from one another.  While facilities are needed, we all tend to become overly wedded to them, at the expense of following Christ and making a difference for him.  Divisions in the church that happened decades and even centuries ago need to be re-examined by larger bodies, and smaller churches need to gather and ask what we can do together to advance Christ’s coming Kingdom and pool our resources.  

2. Develop people in the faith. Beyond membership, activity in church functions, and participating in governing bodies, few churches set spiritual benchmarks for their members. If someone came to join our church and asked, “How will I be different five years from now?” we should have good answers for them.  Which benchmarks would you suggest? Should we have benchmarks at all?

3. Stop trying to make everyone happy (which is a perfect prescription for making everyone unhappy).  The Church needs to have the guts to look the world in the eye and say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light. That doesn’t mean that we become intolerant neighbors.  It means that we stop being indifferent neighbors.  Jesus isn’t just “our thing.”  His salvation is for all, and we shouldn’t be scared to believe it and live it. How does this statement make you feel? 

4. The church must connect with the issues of people’s lives.  Congregation should frequently offer events outside their church grounds and discuss  issues of interest to the larger community.  We should be good neighbors, opening our doors to our neighbors in ways that share the Good News of Christ with them in all that we do. Is your congregation relavent? Does it spead the Good News through ALL its activities or does it act merely as a neighborhood facility?

Jesus changed the world by following God, building relationships, and speaking the truth (with Scripture as the guide).  As his disicples we are called to do the same today.  And as the world’s resources are reduced and humanity’s power through technology continues to increase, it is incumbent on us all not to leave this to the next generation.  Our time is now. The Church in our culture is at a crossroads.  In what ways do you think the church needs to turn onto a new path?

I hope this generates discussions online and in the church (and not just at Parkway).

All the best & In Christ,

Tom Paine