The wise and insightful MaryAnn McKibben Dana rightly teaches that the church is not dying; it’s pregnant. Read this and share generously. I won’t go into all the points MA makes but, as she says, pregnancy is not always comfortable or easy.
Of course, a baby will eventually be born and we all want a healthy baby. But if we don’t follow healthy practices, we could end up with something less than a healthy church. What we don’t want is the church equivalent of a crack baby – the result of trying to satisfy our most addictive impulses without considering the consequences.
Let’s also keep in mind that the average age that someone gives birth in the US these days is 27.5 years old. The “parents” of this future church, I believe, are between the ages of 20 and 40, more or less.
I write this post in hopes that those of us who are too old to be new parents will recognize our role in the 21st Century Church: We are the grandparents.
Our fertility diminishes as we age. This doesn’t mean that people over 40 – or even over 80 – have no creativity and energy. We just have less of it.
Although I am not a grandparent, I’m in the right age demographic. [To be perfectly honest, I've already started pondering what my future Grandmother Name will be if I ever get to be a grandmother. I like "Grand Jan" but my kids have vetoed it.]
Although I have no grandchildren, HH and I have a grand-dog and we noticed that – the last time the grand-dog visited – we unintentionally made things difficult for the dog’s parents. We ruined the dog’s schedule. We fed him too many treats. I don’t want to be a problem grandmother. And I don’t want to be a problem grandmother for the church we are all anxiously expecting.
It occurs to me that those in my and older generations need to keep something in the forefront of our minds as the church we love is pregnant:
The Next Church Will Not Be Our Baby.
We will have great ideas for how to care for it and treasure it. We might even be able to help pay for its nurture and its future. But it’s not our baby.
This is not to say we will not be ideal grandparents. But it’s possible that we could overstep our bounds. We could chuckle at the disciplines the younger generations have chosen to follow. We might want to talk incessantly about the way we did it. But let’s not.
There is enormous wisdom grandparents can share. We are seasoned leaders and we definitely see that some things never seem to change. But our role is shifting.
It’s not our baby, and – in terms of cosmic stewardship – the baby doesn’t belong to the younger generations either, any more than young parents “own” their sons and daughters. The future church is God’s baby and our job is to be excellent stewards. And prepare for a healthy birth.
Note: I looked everywhere for an image with darker skin for this post. I have a feeling our baby will be a darker shade of humanity.