The church has a lot of history and tradition that has sustained us for two millennium, but we also have to be aware of and live in the real world today, while using language, metaphors and tools people can both understand and utilize in their everyday experience. I’m convinced that the message of Jesus is as relevant as ever – just look at our hurting world.
Guess what? Sometimes it is the way we speak, act or long for a glorious past to return that makes us seem irrelevant. Join the 21st century – it is a pretty cool place. We still have a lot to offer. Do you believe it?
- Get over the numbers.
For a long-time we have been tracking numbers and at times the data can be depressing.
Guess what? Less people go to church than they used to in prior decades. Get over it! We have important work to do and too positive a message to share to be curmudgeons. The constant navel-gazing and defeatist attitude are helping neither the church nor the world. Regroup. Get organized. Get going. Listen.
- Let go of the guilt.
We don’t have to keep some things going because we feel like we are letting down either God or our ancestors if we don’t do them. I’m convinced the apostles were effective because they didn’t have buildings to maintain or programs they had to run or keep going. They simply tried ways to connect people to the good news of Jesus, and if those attempts did not work, they tried something else. (When you have some time this next year, read Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament). Many Christian communities are stuck in ways things get done with diminishing returns, leading to constant feelings of failure. Give yourself permission to be creative, think outside of the box, go outside of the box, stop doing things that no longer work, and find partners to help meet your faith community’s objectives to do effective ministry.
Guess what? The Spirit is still blowing among us and our charge is not to perpetuate what came before us. Let go. Trust. Stop thinking of your role and your church as caretaker of an institution and start discovering how God has placed you to be a missionary in your neighborhood.
- Be political, but stop being SO politically aligned
In my view one of our problems as the church in North America is the allegiance of so many Christians to the political Right and so many other Christians to the political Left. We are called to speak the truth to power and to work on behalf of justice and mercy among all people. It is hard to keep our credibility when we are so deeply entrenched in the mechanisms of our political machinery, that outsiders can’t tell the difference between voices. When the church becomes too politically aligned – it loses its voice to those politics.
Guess what? We can keep our Christian voice, be politically active, vote, hold office, serve in the military, support those serving, get involved in our communities, and try to make things better (especially for those on the margins) as long as we hold tight to the claim that we already belong to a kingdom and already have a Lord. His name is Jesus, remember him?
- Rekindle the joy.
What if we had more fun this coming year? I know we are all under a great deal of pressure, but take a moment and lighten up. Try to laugh. Find enjoyment in being church and following Jesus.
Guess what? People will notice – and not just the people inside the church building.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)