To me, the response to the challenges presented us by an ever-fluid religious landscape is not going to be found in reaction. Granted, I do consider it important- no imperative- to have an understanding of movements and trends among believers, but to chase after them would always render us at their mercy. We would end up just being the flavor-of-the-month church without any real identity.
Also I believe that we cannot just keep doing business as usual. The Church of Christ of our parent’s generation and, yes, even of our own is- to borrow a phrase used about us- perceived by many as “yesterday’s church.” While we may not like to hear that and are inclined to argue against it, maybe we should consider it constructive criticism.
I love the Church of Christ. I do not want to come across as bitter. I am not. I certainly do not enjoy engaging in church bashing and to be fair there are numerous vibrant and growing congregations of the Church of Christ who are engaged in relevant ministry, effective evangelism and community involvement.
Overwhelmingly though, most of the Churches of Christ of my acquaintance are now smaller than they once were- including the church where I now preach. To me this- alone- is enough to set the alarm bells ringing. Numbers speak for themselves. Whether it is our young people headed toward orthodox churches, our boomers headed toward praise churches or our disillusioned burn-outs headed nowhere, we must wake up to the fact that there is a disconnect somewhere and respond to it.
And we have tried. As many have noted we have tinkered with, changed and micromanaged our worship hour to the point of overly sensitizing everyone as to what happens within it. I have even heard vocalized the idea that if we get it “right” people will come. Excuse me but the church is not a cornfield of dreams.
The church is also not nearly just about what goes on in that one hour. Maybe it was okay for our previous generations influenced by “modernity” to sit passively and compartmentalize worship to Sunday morning but it is anything but okay now. Now people are seeking a God they can experience.
Ask for volunteers to form a mission team, to work with a hurricane relief group, to work among and feed the homeless, to staff a work camp and they materialize- sometimes almost instantly. To them it is not about a worship style or a five-step plan. They just want to experience the presence of God hands-on and to know they are making a difference and often are not finding encouragement for such among us.
But that can change- and must. To me, it is all about the presence of God. I think where we have failed is in not impressing upon our children as we sit at home or drive along the road or at bed time or breakfast time- the real, incredible, life-altering presence of God among us. Other things are written upon our doorposts and gates. We have tended- generally speaking- to leave it up to the teachers and the preachers in those couple of Sunday hours to do the impressing. Consequently we have lost the real sense of his presence and possibly lost a portion of this generation to our churches.
So to me, the way to recapture the attention of those who may be leaving us has much less to do with praise teams, candles or whatever the next church fad-of-the-moment is and much more to do with a recapturing of the sense of the mystery of God and his daily presence within us.
Just consider it. A daily focus in our homes of prayer, Bible reading, devotion and meditation; An ongoing example set to our children of hands-on ministry and of active involvement in kingdom work; A demonstration of a true and transparent transformation because of our relationship with Christ; An acknowledgment of and an awesome reverence for the person and presence of God; Would that not anchor our kids and overflow into our worship?
I’ve never thought it was about worship style. It is about what we bring to worship that counts. If we bring with us a life lived in the shadow of the daily presence of God- that will energize any worship style- even “yesterday’s church” and make it genuine and alive to every generation.
It’s all about presence.
What do you think?