FAIL?

rosesnow

The unity movement known as the American Restoration Movement is hopelessly divided. Along with most of the Christian denominations, our numbers are failing. The conservatives believe they are keeping the faith, the progressives believe they are saving the church, and those who aren’t quite sure what they are do not know which way to turn. Are our grandchildren going to look back on this as a giant failure? I suppose that is possible. However, I do not think so.

It is true that our world has evolved a bit, and it’s hard to evolve with it. I doubt that any of us really know the long term effect that online interconnectivity has had on our lives, and especially our life in the church. In a way, blogging has made all of us teachers (which is not exactly in keeping with James’ advice, but here we are). We have an international podium and the freedom to speak. We have more input from others on the issues that concern us than we used to have. That could be good. It could widen our experience and give us ideals that expand beyond our own personal parameters. And it could be bad.

In the Christian perspective, we are living in a post-Willow Creek world. Willow Creek became our mentor because they did something no one else had ever done. They asked their community what they wanted in a church, and then they became that. They grew like crazy and set ablaze the desire to become mega. Don’t misinterpret – I’m not critical of Willow Creek. We just can’t all be Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen. Once we all realized that all results were not typical, a new cynicism began to sneak into the Kingdom.

Pretty soon it wasn’t hip to be BIG any more, but it was hip to be SMALL. Not small because you’re stale and dwindling … but small, intimate, sharing. Coffee drinking young idealists with odd glasses and clothing from the thrift store began leaving mainstream churches to form their own independent groups free from the encumberments of ‘religion’. There was an unspoken (mostly) distrust of anything that smelled like tradition.  And it seems to me that a theme developed in this setting that teeter-tottered on pride. You could hear it in the voice, an existential wistfulness … why can’t other people be as spiritual as I am? Not all of them for sure … but if you’re too smart to meet with folks who’ve given their lives in search of God, and you’ve judged them as all just tradition-bound fuddy-duddys, then what else am I to think?

Yes, that was my personal spin on recent church history!

Still, at the church on the corner, meeting faithfully out of love for God, is that band of believers wondering what bomb went off that changed the world but didn’t seem to affect them? Whether we are perceptive enough to understand the times or not, all is not lost. Here’s why:

I believe that there are people in every congregation, young and old, who seek to genuinely serve their neighbor in the name of Christ.

I believe that within the churches of Christ there is a growing awareness that the debating, comparing, criticizing, and cantakerousness is not only destroying us, it is anti-Christ.

I believe that there is a growing global accountability via the online community and that interaction with other Christians in this setting draws us to sharpen one another.

I believe that there is more to a church than brick, morter, people and steeple. The Holy Spirit of God is inhabiting his people and where He is at work, there is life.

I believe there are dedicated Christians working diligently with sweet and yielding spirits in churches of Christ throughout the world, and that what they do does matter in the grand scheme of things.

I believe that the Church of Christ has a vital message and the heart to explore new ways to bring it to this strange new world.

I believe that our mistakes, mis-steps, and bumbles are evident. They are not all in our past either…we’re going to keep stumbling. In all of our imperfection it must be perfectly clear why we need God’s grace.

I believe our best days are ahead of us. I really do. Why? Because God is at work and I just do not have the guts to tell Him he’s wasting his time!

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Thanks for reading!

John

Comments are closed.