- Reboot Perceptions.
The church exists for the people that aren’t the members of it. Jesus makes it clear that following him is about serving others, which is counter-intuitive to a consumer based culture. We live in a society where “what I like, and how I like it,” trumps everything else. Catering to people’s preferences (as opposed to reaching out to the community beyond church membership) only seems to have accelerated the downward spiral of church engagement, because if people don’t get their way, they simply leave.
At the same time (intentionally or not) we have excluded large portions of the population from our expression of the church. My denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is almost exclusively white in a country that continues to grow in its diversity. We need a reclaiming of Pentecost – where folks are called from every background, from every language, from every corner of the earth (but who are also in our homes and live next door) to be the people of God and give voice to what God continues to do among us. Come Holy Spirit come! #decolonizelutheranism
- Reboot Faith.
Fear is deadly, and is alive and well within the church. Fear runs rampant like an untreated cancer – and it unfortunately drives most of our decision-making. Jesus said many times in the gospels, “Do not be afraid.” It is time to take him at his word, and be courageous people of faith who claim “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
- Reboot Communication.
The message of Jesus is needed in a world so full of hate, division, injustice and violence. Yet the way we package “religion” in our culture is completely irrelevant to most people who do not practice it. We have a tendency to come across to outsiders as judgmental and hypocritical; out of touch with reality and out of sync with the world.
Instead of cloistering ourselves away from the world, we need to actively pursue becoming more authentic and grounded; more hospitable and inviting; more open to new ideas and change; more honest about our history and current shortcomings; more actively concerned and responsive to hurt and need; than we did when we occupied a place of privilege in an already Christian society. We need to repent and seek new ways to move forward. We need to forgive ourselves for our failures. Yet at the same time we need to communicate by our words and actions that the church is not about us and/or our abilities, but it is about the mercy and open arms of Jesus who has come to embrace us all.
- Reboot Expectations.
The ‘good old days’ are not coming back. There are many reasons for the expansion and collapse of the 20th Century American church that can be explored, learned from and corrected, but we should not do so under the hope that it will produce bustling Sunday Schools, multitudes of new members and expanding budgets. Those days are long over. We need to stop chasing “success.”
The reality is most people left the church for good reasons. Without assigning blame or living in defeat we need to listen, learn, and rebuild authentic credibility in the neighborhoods that our churches are planted in. People see us as primarily concerned about our own survival while so many others struggle.
- Reboot Operations.
The church needs to stop watching and start doing. I believe clericalism is killing the church. We too easily defer to pastors to do most things. Leadership is essential, but clergy are not the church’s sole ministers; a truth we have forgotten with so much recent emphasis placed on production value. The whole people of God are the church; we are all the body of Christ, and the world needs all of us to care for it.
In baptism all of God’s people are called into the life of Jesus and sent by the Spirit to serve. Our leaders can help point the way, show us how to do it, and invite us to reflect on our experiences, but they cannot be the sole representatives of Christ in the world or seen to be the primary caretaker of the people inside the walls. If what the pastor does (or doesn’t do) is all the church has the capability to do, my question is: Why bother?
I love Acts 6. The apostles felt like they were in over their heads, so they empowered a whole new group of leaders to help the church take care of its people and reach out into the community. The result is they grew the ministry among their people and expanded their reach. We need to do this. Now.
It is time for a church reboot. God is on a mission, and invites us to come along.
Press Ctrl, Alt, Delete with me. Let’s go!
(Many thanks to Brian Scott [catch him on twitter @Scttyb121 or https://www.facebook.com/brianscottbooks/] who was my conversation partner for this piece.)