It’s obvious that church buildings – like homes – need to be de-cluttered from time to time. It’s less obvious that congregations need to de-clutter calendars, as I wrote about last week.
But the hardest things to de-clutter are those theological and ecclesiastical weights that 1) actually hurt our relationships with God and each other and 2) drive us to miss the point of life. Learning about God is a lifelong endeavor that involves intentional activity. Yes, sometimes we are not looking for a Big Cosmic Truth and then – boom – God cracks us over the head with an insight that helps those proverbial scales fall from our eyes one more time. But usually, we need to make an effort.
I remember a parishioner who told me that everything he believed about God he learned by the Third Grade. Frankly, it showed.
Reaching adulthood with a childhood understanding of God is an insult to God. Examples:
- God is not magic.
- God is not like Santa.
- God does not control every steering wheel, gun trigger, or fist.
- It’s not God’s fault when terrible things happen to us.
Although I love my particular denomination, some of our denominational stuff also gets in the way. For example, last week Carey Nieuwhof wrote 5 Disruptive Church Trends that Will Rule 2016 and it surely makes my people nervous. Nieuwhof’s ideas are italicized and mine follow.
- Church online will become an advance, not just a supplement to or replacement for church. Institutional Church fear: If people don’t come through our doors, we won’t be able to know them/get a commitment from them. How will we pay for the building?
- Preachers will preach less often. Institutional Church Fear: If our professional ministers aren’t – first and foremost – preaching, our Reformed Theology (at least for my denomination) is compromised.
- Experience will trump content. Institutional Church Fear: Do we even know how to create intimate community? We’ve always self-identified as “friendly” but that’s not enough. This might mean that the pastor’s job is totally different (from spending most of his/her time on creating a sermon to spending most of his/her time on equipping people to care for each other and make an difference in the neighborhood.)
- Passion will beat polish. Institutional Church Fear: But what about our efforts to create amazing worship and music experiences? Can we actually teach people to be authentic?
- Only the most engaged and curious will attend. Institutional Church Fear: Do we have any idea how to minister to “the curious”? This means we might have to rethink our vocabulary and our expectations. And are we okay with saying goodbye to nominal members who are on the rolls only for sentimental reasons or because they want a venue for familial events like weddings and funerals?
Please read Nieuwhof’s post. What needs to be given away/tossed out/repaired and re-purposed in our own congregation’s or denomination’s culture? When we figure that out, we will have our work cut out for us. (And it won’t be easy, but it will be amazingly holy.)
Image Source. This is a quote by David Foster Wallace.