A good friend recently forwarded this article to me about “Massive Changes” occurring in the Church. This is not necessarily new information. Countless articles, books, seminars and conferences offer ways to address these issues. One could quickly become overwhelmed by the myriad challenges. I may be crazy, but I see them more as opportunity than trial. Take a minute to read the article, then let me explain.
1. The Way People Earn is Changing. This could force us into more of a "shared economy." Not pleasant, I know. While some would argue it's a step back, it could serve to combat the isolationist consumer mentality we are all swamped by. I would love to see a Church full of people offering various skills and services among themselves and to others not just as a way of surviving, but also as a way of building community. Think Acts 2 and Acts 4.
There is no "Plan B" that excludes the Church as God's redemptive agency, His chosen people, His bride.
2. The Way People Give is Changing. Yep. No doubt, it's going to be more sacrificial and more intentional. I hope and pray this will serve to further strengthen community, and that the Church will rise to the occasion and be worthy. But as a wise friend recently told me, "The bottom line is not just making sure the Church has the money it needs to do what it ought to be doing. The bottom line is that I need to give even if there were no one out there who needed to receive what I have to offer. I need to be giving for the sake of my own soul. I need to divest myself of wealth so that I will not 'be entangled therein and perish,'" as John Wesley said.
3. The Way People Attend Church is Changing. This is an opportunity for the Church to prove its worth, to prove that it is worth our continued sacrifice and participation. A fuller participation is going to be key. If we continue to make church a passive experience, people will choose among other, much more attractive offers. The age of Church as attractional entertainment — "fellowships of excitement!" — is over. That is a good thing. Can we see the Church restored as prophetic witness, revolutionary alternative, Gospel-incarnated community? Or as Eugene Peterson describes it, "A colony of Heaven in a country of death"?
4. The Way People Commit is Changing. Again, this could be really great if we can demonstrate the absolute critical nature of the Church's role and why more commitment is needed, not less. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous saying, "When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die," is easy to quote, but much more challenging to live out, and absolutely essential to come to terms with. This only happens in community.
5. The Way People Trust is Changing. I know I sound like a record with a scratch, but I say, "Amen." Let God and His people earn this trust. I don't think God will fail the test. I pray everyday His people won't screw it up too badly; although history on this matter isn't very inspiring, God is ever gracious. There is no "Plan B" that excludes the Church as God's redemptive agency, His chosen people, His bride. Recapturing our imagination for this is, indeed, a massive and much-needed change.
John Ray is a missionary, spiritual director and the elder responsible for teaching at Grace Church of NWA. John and his wife Jane spend way too much time packing and unpacking, vacuuming dog hair and chasing raccoons off their porch. They much prefer sharing good food and good coffee with friends, reading and trying to keep up with their daughters.