“Fear does its dishonorable work, creating maladaptive responses instead of metabolic ones. Never underestimate the power of fear geared up and egged on by ego to keep us from moving forward. There is an old saying that some people are so fearful of change had they been present at creation they would have voted for chaos. Fear causes us to hide in the face of change, and it leads to living a reactive rather than constructive life. The choice is to be an active part of positive change, which already is upon us, or to passively and grudgingly tolerate inevitable change. This “such-a-time” moment has a right to expect that we won’t be satisfied to sit on the sidelines, but that we will initiate and participate in change. The future cannot afford an AWOL church. Jesus gave us a love we can trust, even in the face of our fears.”
– Dr. Leonard Sweet, from the book “Viral” pg. 16
Change is the only constant in life. The Church has always been slow to recognize that for some reason. If we look at many churches in our area, including our own, we see structures and institutions that are reminiscent of the 1950’s or earlier. Tradition isn’t bad, but traditionalism is slowly killing us. It is very important that we tell our stories, that we celebrate the past and what God has done, but we cannot stay there. Tradition isn’t tradition unless it is given away so that a new generation can move into the future. We’ve held on to those traditions for too long (becoming traditionalists) and a whole generation has left the church.
The answer doesn’t lie in duplicating what others have done. Sure the church down the street may have “attracted” many members with a different music or way of worship. But that my not fit our church. Although I do believe we should and must begin to use technology in worship, we must do it our way as we listen to the Spirit’s leadings. The Spirit is blowing its winds of change all around the Church today. We must follow the Spirit’s leading if the story of Jesus is to be shared with those who have lost their “religion” or no longer see the need to attend a church, but are looking for something spiritual in their lives to make sense of all that goes on each day.
So what will the church of the next 25 years begin to look like? That’s the million dollar question but I believe they will be/include:
Rooted in community; a parish for all types of community activities held in the buildings,
Lay led (no staff) except for the pastor (who also may hold down another job), who is the spiritual guide/director for the community,
An increase in home churches – places where small groups of people meet in each others homes weekly to worship, rather than in a church building,
Worship services that are experiential, participatory, image-rich, and connective (EPIC; an acronym coined by Dr. Sweet); where people participate in a way that actually affects the sermon as it is being preached!
Full of technology – people texting or tweeting the pastor during the service; lots of images both through media and visuals in the room; different styles and types of music – just to name a few…
I’m just projecting here from all the reading I’ve done over the past two years, but I can tell you that changes in the way we “do” and even think about church are coming. We can either respond in fear or choose to embrace the changes knowing that Jesus “gave us a love we can trust, even in the face of our fears.” May we all embrace this love and see these changes as a new opportunity to share our Jesus stories.