This is not a fight against change – not some cold death grip upon the last remnants of the “good ol’ days.”
This is a call to remember.
Remember a day before the word “marketing” was used as a substitute for “evangelism”.
Remember a day when people checked their social status and biases at the door before walking into the church building.
Remember a day when “ministry” was not something we delegated to a select few but the filter through which every Christian understood our purpose on the earth.
You know what the problem is? We do not remember those days because most of us weren’t there to see them in the first place.
I believe that the slow, silent exodus from the local church (if I can be so bold to call it that) which we are now seeing is due in large part to this fact. We are disillusioned, disappointed and often discouraged by the disconnect we see between Sunday morning and the rest of our world. And because we cannot remember a day when the local church was anything more than what it is today, we are leaving it behind.
Many are motivated by a longing for a form of church that feels more true. What is interesting is the tone that you hear in the words of those who leave. Even in those with the most negative things to say, their leaving is accompanied by a sorrow.
Almost as if, having no other choice, they were parting ways with a dear friend.
But is there truly no other choice but departure? When we’ve never known the local church to be anything but what it is today and we’ve never experienced such a level of dissatisfaction with it, what is there left to do?
In a word: stay.
Not out of a sense of spiritual duty or responsibility. Very few can do that without it becoming a religious act.
Stay because there is still hope.
Listen, I’m not worried about the Church – Jesus made it clear that she’s going to be around and moving forward till the day he returns.
I’m worried that you might miss out on the most significant moment for the Church in our generation.
This is the make or break moment for local churches
Let me share with you why I believe this is THE moment for local churches throughout the West and why I’ve committed to stay.
1. I can now see the difference between the gathered worshipping community and “the local church”.
That might sound strange but let me explain. Biblically speaking, the church is nothing more than the gathering of those called out of darkness and into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) That gathered community of Jesus worshippers is what will remain till the end. Some have called this the “organic” or “true” church.
Somewhere along the way the gathered community began to create organizations, buy buildings, run programs and call those things “the local church”. These are not containers of the “true” church – they are forms and expressions of it.
It is those “forms” that are in trouble if they don’t adapt to operating in an increasingly secular culture. (By the way, much of my work is geared toward helping those “local churches” make that change.)
But walking into my “local church” on a Sunday morning, looking around and understanding, “within this building Jesus’ people are gathered” has made a world of difference.
2. Change is going to happen with or without me.
Consider this for a moment. If Jesus is in fact actively building his Church and says that it is continually advancing in strength (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 11:12), it puts local church organizations in a very clear position. The forward motion of God’s kingdom will require that every local church organization make a choice: change or fade.
Though some will be able to delay making that choice it is ultimately unavoidable. The sad part is that many will wait for a tangible crisis to occur before making that decision.
But if I patiently and lovingly stay, I have the opportunity to be a voice for and in that change. If I leave and a “change or fade” choice is truly inevitable, I will miss the chance to be a part of giving shape to my local church as it finds its place in a new day.
3. Staying is a chance to practice self-forgetfulness.
If the Church is going to be marked by anything in a secular age it must be marked by its selflessness. There is no room for the triumph of personal preferences and agendas when the luxuries of cultural acceptance are gone.
By staying I “say to my soul” that I will put love and patience into practice. I will not allow my own personal preferences (however deep they run) and agendas (however sound they are) to keep me from loving and serving others, including Jesus’ people.
This is not a fight against change. It is a call to those who are willing to work toward better days for the Church – the best she has yet seen. It is a call to hope.
It is a call to stay.