Yesterday I wrote about what I called inevitable decline. It’s a belief that some, even within the church, have that goes along the lines that the church has to decline.
As I mentioned, I don’t agree with this line of thinking.
I’m wondering though if I’m using the same definitions of terms as those who carry these beliefs. Definitions of terms are important. They can make all the difference. For me the “church” goes beyond the organization or the building. The church is the body of Christ. Jesus promised us that he would be with us until the end of the age, so how could the church, in this sense, ever really decline.
I don’t like the idea of decline, especially in relation to the church. But this goes beyond not liking something. Yes, the numbers for many church denominations are in decline. So be it. We can gaze at those numbers all day long. The question becomes, so what? Are we looking at the numbers in order to feel bad for ourselves and have some kind of pity party? I hope not.
I didn’t change denominations, go to seminary for five years, take on a ton of debt to do that, change career and calling, so that I could go through the motions and watch over a declining church. If that’s your thing, can we just speed up the death, let me go to the funeral, and then set me loose to do what I was called to do – go and proclaim the Good News.
When are we, church, going to be so fed up with the idea of inevitable decline that it causes us to start acting differently? When are we going to actually embrace what it is we claim to belief that it causes us to start carrying out the call? I’m not interested in just going through the motions, or mouthing the words. If that’s your thing – then get out-of-the-way. I don’t have time for that.
The church is in the midst of change. But I don’t think this is any different from any other time in history. The church is always in the midst of change. Are we so arrogant as to think that we are somehow more special than those who came before us that we are overseeing the death of the church? Really? History didn’t start when we were born, nor will it end when we die.
Will the church change? Absolutely. Living things change. They excrete stuff that is harmful. The church will do this too. There are things in the church that need to die. And the beautiful thing about what we believe is that there is resurrection – new life, renewed life, transformed life. The church will look different in the future than it does now, just as what it looks like right now is far different from what it looked like in the past.
Inevitable decline? Where’s the hope in that? Jesus command was to follow him, not gaze at the numbers and throw a pity party. So get up and start living out the Gospel, proclaiming it. The world need to hear it. The world needs encounters with Jesus. Get out there and do it. Or don’t you really believe it?