- We’re in the throes of March Madness.
- I’ve been traveling quite a bit.
- Fred Phelps died.
As well, it’s snowed not once but twice since the first day of spring here in Chicagoland. Climate change?
There are still climate change deniers, but for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to point out that there are also spiritual climate change deniers. I believe they are a benevolent bunch. They mean no harm. And yet we need them to stop it.
The brilliant Diana Butler Bass often writes and speaks on such topics as spiritual climate change and she points out that – unlike the weather which can change from minute to minute – climate changes subtly. Icebergs melt slowly. Weather patterns shift slightly. El Niño is a wily little dickens.
Years ago, I was invited to participate in a group of biggish church pastors, even though the congregation I served was comprised of less than 200 souls. The Big Church Pastors had more than just people. They had money and time – the money to keep the Constantinian Church going for a little more time. I was already seeing the melting iceberg after working like crazy to be the best pastor I could possibly be based on everything I’d learned in seminary in the 1980s. (Even then, we were learning to serve a church that no longer existed.)
Upon mentioning this impending change in the spiritual climate to my clergy group, one of my colleagues literally patted me on the head as if to say, “There, there. Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are interesting but they aren’t talking about our churches and our people.”
I’m grateful that my mainline colleagues have now noticed the melting icebergs.
While climate scientists warn us of pending global destruction, spiritual climate change is a good thing, if you ask me. It’s true, there are Inconvenient Truths about the 21st Century Church that Pew, Putnam, Phyllis, Gallup, Reggie McNeal, Barna, and – of course – Diana have pointed out. But spiritual climate change is moving us closer to what God intends for the church. For example:
- Just as the protester pictured above declared that “It’s time to clean up our acts” when it comes to government and industry, we in the institutional church have long needed to clean up our acts. From sexual misconduct to financial misconduct to hypocrisy to everyday idolatry, we have long needed a good scrubbing.
- Speaking of idolatry, we in the institutional church have loved many things more than we’ve loved God. We love our camps, our stained glass windows, our pipe organs, our Sunday School traditions, our buildings, our women’s groups, our pastors, and our hymnals more than we’ve loved God. This makes Jesus slap his hand to his head.
- We in the institutional church need to remember why we exist. Do we exist to please ourselves? (“But I love the old hymns.” “But I love Vacation Bible School.” “But I love it when men wear ties to church.”) Or do we exist to make disciples of all nations and to love God and neighbor?
I could go on and on, but you get my drift. Bring on the storms. Let the winds of the Spirit blow down the doors. Welcome turbulence. Embrace the fog.
This is a good thing. Scary, perhaps, but very good. I love serving the church in this mess.