For some reason this week I've spoken to a few pastors and lay people who are frustrated with the direction of their churches and don't know what to do about it. In at least one case, it is causing some significant stress in the pastor. He remains committed to the church but is concerned about its future. I'm not sure how helpful I've been to him or to the others with whom I've spoken.
Along with these conversations I did some reading last night that deeply troubled me about the future of the church. I closed the book and began asking myself if we are just riding a dead horse. I began to think of several churches I know that have been declining for so long that the people now assume that's the way church is supposed to be. I thought about denominations that are in the same condition and begun to wonder if we are pouring good resources into something that will never be able to advance the Kingdom of God again. Are the traditional churches and denominations historical relics that have outlived their usefulness? Are those who have been calling for a return to house churches on the right track? Are we focused on maintaining systems and structures that can no longer address the needs of the 21st century? I thought about a lot of things last night and again today and have to admit that I have not come up with real answers to my questions.
I know Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, but was He speaking about what we know as the church today? I know that God's Kingdom will advance, but will it do so through the same structures we have today? How can I be the best steward of my life and resources, and how can I best respond to God's call on my life today? These are important questions for which I do not have an answer.
They are also the kinds of questions each of us need to be asking of ourselves and our churches. Those of you who attend my healthy church workshop have heard me ask two important questions: "Who are we here for?" and "Is what we are doing here today worth the life of the Son of God?" Perhaps we need to be adding these additional questions as we think about our future ministry plans.
This is not meant to be a depressing post but one that will make each of us think about what it is God has called us and our churches to be and to do. I think it is good to spend time on a regular basis considering such questions and prayerfully seeking God's answers to them. I may not be certain of a lot of things right now, but I do know this morning I thanked God for giving me the privilege to serve Him in ways I never thought would ever be possible. It is an exciting calling God has given me, and I hope you feel the same way about His call on your life as well.