Where is the Church Going?
As a pastor, I am always thinking about the future. How can we reach our community better? What can we do to disciple people more? How do we get more members on fire about sharing their faith? I want to know where my church is going. So I am constantly in thought about the future health of my church.
But one of my members said something a couple of days ago that struck a chord. Our families had just finished dinner, and we were talking in generalities about the future of our church. She interluded, “Sam, as long as you are honest and open and sincere, you will have our support.”
I thought about what she had said in light of our conversation. What she was not looking for in her pastor was cutting-edge ideas, nor polished sermons. She just wanted the open and honest Truth. She did not want me to use the church as a loudspeaker for my own means of personal success and glory. She wants her pastor to be the loudspeaker for Jesus, and him alone.
I wonder about the church in general. I wonder where it is going. More than 4 out of 5 teens say that they have attended church for a period of at least two months during their teen years. Yet only 39% of these teens are still in church in their twenties. The church appears to be losing young people to the influence of secular culture.
I think part of the problem is a lack of sincerity, a lack of honesty with the gospel message, and a lack of genuine care for people.
In one of my mindless amazon.com perusals I came across a book entitled The Church of Tomorrow, written in 1936. I had to have it (as usual). It is mainly about the architecture of the church building, not the actual church body. But I will share with you an excerpt:
Now seldom can we find a church yielding a warm, rich exquisite sense of life and comfort if entered solitary reverie. Often an empty showiness is all we can find; seldom the quiet which is not loneliness; seldom the inspiring warmth and dignity of a great sheltering space which fills the individual with content and permits the lonely to be less alone. Quiet, unity, and expressiveness must be regained.
We certainly could use a little less “empty showiness” and a little more “unity” within the church body today. Perhaps the church of tomorrow will be a little healthier. Perhaps Christians will become a little more unified. Perhaps we will find ways to reach the younger generation. Perhaps, like my church member pointed out, we will be genuine and sincere.
In looking forward, I am an optimist. As I tell my church, since God is guiding us, there is no reason to be anything but optimistic. But I am also a realist that many churches are not as healthy as they should be. My church certainly has room for improvement. I myself have areas in my life that I need to give over more to God. So in looking to the church of tomorrow, I realize that the work must begin today. Minute theological divisions will have to be bridged. The competitive nature for butts in the pews between churches in the same localities will have to be squelched. The church body will have to care genuinely about each other at an individual church, local, state, and denominational level. The cross must become the foundation of our endeavors. So let’s all begin the work to make the church of tomorrow a reality today.