Signs of the Times

Church, are you paying attention?

Our world is crying out and I wonder if we are paying enough attention. Do the things happening in the voting polls last year or the events of this past weekend hold any meaning for you? Are you listening? Because the people are crying out. Church, they are crying out to you. They are crying out for help, for meaning, for someone to show they care.

We wonder today why many of our churches are dying. We wonder how we can get more people in the pew, get them tithing, get them volunteering to take over our responsibilities but those are the wrong questions.

I did a training session last year at a church that was hiring a new pastor and wanted to be aware of what were some of the trends of church involvement, issues new ministers were facing, issues facing young families in their area, etc. One older gentleman tried to quickly cut me off. He spoke up, interrupting me with a gruff, “I don’t hear you talk about Jesus. We just need to get back to Jesus. If people would get back to Jesus they would be in church on Sunday.”

Here’s what I told him….Jesus is in all of it. If we say that Jesus is who he he says he is, if Jesus is relevant to this world, then what happens in the world matters. If this faith is big enough, it should be bigger than what can be contained inside an hour of worship on Sunday morning and Wednesday night prayer meeting. It should affect every area of our lives, it should affect the way we do our work, it should affect the way we engage our community, it should affect the way we treat our neighbors. It should draw us into our communities, draw us away from our often over-filled church calendars.

The world is crying out. Crying out to be loved, to have work, to have food, to have health care, to be able to pay their bills, to be respected. It doesn’t matter where your community lies politically, there are needs you can meet. People from all sides are crying out.

Many say that we shouldn’t let culture dictate the church. That was the cry of this older gentleman. Go back and read the words of Jesus because his ministry was all about meeting the needs of other people, and not just the people that were on the church membership list.

He healed the sick, heard their cries. He fed the hungry. He treated women with respect. He did this outside the walls of the church.

We’ve ignored the signs people are holding outside the church for far too long. The future of the church will look different, like nothing we’ve known in the past.

“We are unsure if the church will survive to the next generation. The answer is not to try harder but to start a new adventure: If talking, trying or tricks work, they would have worked already. They are only going to be solved through new insight into the context, the values and the systemic issues at play in the congregation and within the leaders themselves. In other words, before we can solve any problem, we need to learn to see new possibilities.” (Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger, page 33)

It may mean that we as a church need to stop doing something inside the walls of the church so that we can be the presence of Christ outside the walls. The future of the church may look more like words on those signs we have seen over the last year than the materials on Christian bookstore shelves. But make no mistake, if Jesus is really all that he said he was, he is present in both.

Want new possibilities for the church? Take a look at the signs. They are calling us into uncharted adventures that are frightening and challenging but are also exciting.

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