“We both grew up in the church with a strong belief but drifted away from it. Recent tragedy and illness is renewing our belief.” Words, making me smile, from the phone of a loved relative. He continued, “Recently my son called and invited us to do a weekly Zoom Bible study with he and his wife, since we don’t see each other very often. He’s leading it and that has been great!”
Within days, another call, another close connection traveling in deep water once again. With joy in his voice he said, “My friend Ken has been awesome, connects regularly, we pray together, study the Bible, and he sends texts often. Yesterday he sent this amazing song, ‘Gracefully Broken’. Don’t know what I would do without him.”
In both conversations, I ask about their church. None of the six are currently connected to a church. One even said, “I feel like so many right now, the institutional church is just not helpful.”
While there was much good news in both conversations, “No church” was painful to hear. I have found the church to be a powerful community of faithful believers that has journeyed with me. It truly has been the body of Christ for me. Yet… now the pandemic has kept me apart from my faith family, for months. I must confess, it causes me to struggle. With divisions among believers, and incredible speed of cultural changes, how will all this impact the church?
While there was much good news in both conversations, “No church” was painful to hear.
Then I remembered, a 2008 study, that I included in Just Imagine (p. 49). A predicted finding was: “By 2020, more than 85 percent of Americans won’t worship God at church.” (Shultz)
And a more recent 2018 statistic stating: “Approximately 150 congregations close weekly in the US, average 8000 a year.” Thom Rainer’s report ends with a hopeful thought: “Churches have always been asleep before an awakening.” We need an awakening!
I certainly don’t pretend to have a specific formula of how an awakening unfolds, but I believe, that God is calling us as individual Christians, and certainly churches as a community of believers into a vital partnership, in this awakening. In attempting to be faithful, in Just Imagine I’ve included biblical directives, ideas, along with some tools to help awaken us.
God is calling us as individual Christians, and certainly churches as a community of believers, into a vital partnership in this awakening.
“What’s A Church to Do?” Let’s begin as followers of Jesus… While Jesus walked this earth, he challenged his disciples to build relationships that share, demonstrate, and invite others to experience God’s love; he calls us now, one person at a time to do the same. To be equipped for our task and fulfill God’s mission of love for all, God designed the church family.
A letter written to the first century Churches challenged them to: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 is a drumbeat for our visioning. As we begin breaking that down we discover steps for “What’s A Church to Do?”
- Imitate God, by following the example of Christ
- Yearn for people
- Be open to people
- Love people unconditionally, sacrificially
- Practice Hospitality with all people (p. 61, Just Imagine)
Together as the Church of Christ, we pray, discern, and develop a plan where God’s Spirit is awakening us to advance God’s Kingdom. No small task, but when we are awakened as partners “with God all things are possible.” (Lk 1:37 NLT) And, it can begin with you and me. Such love and invitation is a practice that helps even those who have left or never connected become part of the family of God!
Just Imagining with you what can happen,