The world is changing fast. Too fast for some Jesus followers. Some of us may wonder what happened to church the way it used to be. We get stuck in an era and cannot see our way out. Some of us may have combination of nostalgia and amnesia. We look fondly on the good times when life seemed to be better. We forget that it wasn’t so good for all of us. We forget racial prejudice was rampant, women were not esteemed as equals and people quarreled over the new music in church. Well they still do. This clouds people’s ability to change. To be an authentic church, to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we must each look into our own lives and ask, “What does Jesus want for us to be.” We don’t “do” church we are to “be” church. Instead of wasting energy about why you don’t like change, ask yourself “why”? Even better yet. How should you respond to changes? Here is what I suggest for Neighborhood Church.
- To change the church we must have a firm grasp on its mission. Jesus calls us to make disciples. Are we doing that? Are you? Then we are not really following Jesus.
- The church has to be open and adapt to its environment. We can work with the forces of change instead of trying to control them. Of course, we don’t embrace the immoral and godless ways of the world, which has been part of the church’s problem. But we do care about it. Jesus loved the world.
- We have to help the community know what we are about. No one has a clue to what happens in a church that has not been in one. And even if they did they are tainted by experiences and expectations of the past. We are to live out the mission of Jesus in the community in ways that are tangible and comprehensible.
- We communicate “what’s in it for them.” Now this can be translated to mean we capitulate to the consumer mentality of the seeker church model. Instead, I think, we shift from communicating to our city our expectations for them and communicate what we offer them. Salvation is a gift given that reorients people to a fresh way of life that is no longer self-serving but life-giving. Our witness is about how aligning our lives with the purpose of God is better than what we now have. As Walter Brueggemann said in a recent talk, “A society that acts out of sync with Yahweh cannot sustain itself.” We work with the whole system of our city to help envision a way of life that benefits all people.
Now here is the challenge what will we do about it? Will we obey Jesus or go back to complaining about an American Christianity that probably not as good as you remember.