More on the question of how we do church/the future of the church: A challenging set of questions raised by David Lose, one of my favorite writers and the president of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He calls this, “A Terrifying Thought,” posted today:
“So what if all the decline our congregations and denominations have experienced in recent decades has little to do with a failure of leadership (what congregational leaders fear) or changes in theological or political stances (what more conservative church leaders assert) or a degenerate or disinterested generation of believers (what people in the pew too often feel) or with any of the other things we usually attribute it to. What if the decline is simply the result of a massive cultural shift? That is, what if we now live in a world where the emerging generation a) has tons of options for ways to think about and make sense of their lives, b) has way less time for things that don’t feel purposeful or worthwhile, and c) (and as a result of a and b) just don’t do things because their parents did but instead only commit to things that make a tangible difference in the world, both theirs and the world around them?
I guess another way of putting this is, what if our congregations are set up – in terms of things like “membership” and “pledges” and “new member classes” and “friendship pads” and scripted worship services filled with sixteenth-century music – to respond to the needs of those who came of age in the fifties, sixties, and seventies but have little to offer millennials? In other words, what if the way we do church just doesn’t make much sense to the youngest third of our population? What then?
I find this to be a terrifying thought. Mostly because I think it might be true.”
You can read David Lose’s posts at http://www.davidlose.net/2014/10/a-terrifying-thought/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+davidlose%2FIsqE+%28…In+the+Meantime%29.
Here’s the thing: It doesn’t mean what we’re doing is “wrong.” It also doesn’t mean that if we switched to drums and guitars we’d “attract” a bunch of young people. I am pretty convinced we would not. What I’ve garnered is that what Lose is saying applies to all “church” offered as something people do on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Saturday evenings or any other time, in a building on a corner with a “sanctuary” and classrooms and a budget and all the rest of it.
I do NOT think the Church of Jesus Christ is “dying.” I suspect, however, that it will look very different in 25 or 30 years.
In the meantime, we have to be agile, creative, responsive, vulnerable, and above all, faithful to Christ in a way that dares greatly, as we strive to “make a tangible difference in the world, both [ours] and the world around [us].”
The photo accompanying this blog is one I took earlier this year in Sonora, California, in the Gold Country. It was in the window of a small coffee shop. You have to click on it to read the sign. I invite you to do so.
Together we serve,
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