Thursday, September 29, 2011

What do you think are the highest priorities and challenges for the church in the 21st century?

I think the single biggest challenge will be for the church to let go: to let go of who we used to be, who we think we should be; to let go of "traditional" measures of success such as members and giving. We need to let go of the thought that the church is "our" church. We need to let go of our fear of change. We need to let go of the fear of failure, the fear of dying (as a church), and the fear that we will soon have to close our doors forever. We need to let go of our desire for control, and recognize that the church is in God's control (and thank God for that!). We need to let go of our desire for power, social standing and privilege. We will need to let go of some churches that should be closed, some buildings that should be sold, and ideas about doing things the way we have always done them before. We need to let go of the idea that ministry is in the hands of those of us who are paid and trained professionals. We need to learn to let go.

We must prioritize worship, faith formation, community development, mission, and outreach. We need to focus on the ancient (timeless) practices of prayer, reading Scripture, corporate worship, and hospitality and discernment, but in ways that blur distinction of insider/outsider into seekers together. We must prioritize sharing the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ with a world that is so desperately in need of God's grace, healing, and reconciliation. We must reclaim and live into the joy of living as redeemed people, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and let our life speak to our faith, let our faith show in the fruit that we bear. We must re-engage with the world and with the culture in ways that promote healing, justice, peace, and reconciliation; that speak prophetic truth to power; that repent of our participation in sinful systems; that speak God's eternal and timeless words of truth to new generations in language that is authentic and meaningful to ever-changing contexts. That is quite a list of "highest priorities," though it could be longer! To sum it up in one word, in one priority, I would say "discernment" - we must discern how God is calling us to be church here and now - and then do it.

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