Church of the Now
Today we had a very good meeting with our executive staff at NorthWood. We prayed, evaluated, and examined how we are making disciples and how we can improve – lot of stuff like that. We talked about next year, our focus, goals, the Spirit’s leading. We came up with some crazy stuff – not sure what we’ll do with it but it was so off the wall I’m not even ready to write about it. It would definitely be more of a week by week adventure in faith with a lot less structured planning . . . . .
Our question was, “would people be ready for that?” We began to talk about what people are thinking deep down and what really matters to them. I’ve definitely seen a move of things since the mid-80’s when we started NorthWood.
In the 80’s, the three big words were excellence, relevance, and anonymity, that’s how you would build the church. Those three words mostly described the worship service. The sermon was the “how to” to happiness and fulfillment and success. It wasn’t bad. It was responding to what had been. Church had been done so sloppily that excellence became expected. It was so outdated that relevance became critical. It was so much in everybody’s face that anonymity became everything so people would not be embarrassed. But, those 3 words, in and of themselves, defeat the definition of church. Excellence limits who and what can be done so that you only have time for the Sunday event. Relevance can become so extreme that the core beliefs are pushed aside and real issues that call for courage to be addressed can be ignored. How can community ever develop when anonymity is a key value? So, church done in that way is on the way out.
During the 90’s to the early 2000’s the three big words were belonging, real, and community. The next generation didn’t want anonymity they wanted to belong and matter to others not just God, their boomer parents couldn’t stay married and they felt the pain of a narcissistic culture. Real became desired over what excellence had become, slick. Authenticity and transparency, in a world that was screwed up and demanded reality, and now the sermon centered on why. Friends replaced the family, because the family fell apart, so the community where you could share, be open, and real is what mattered. It became your support system. But alas, a faith that is centered on me, that is so introspective and crisis oriented, to make me survive is not enough to change the world or give meaning and value – - – this church is in full drive right, but it’s slowly tipping the top of the hill and is on the way down because obsession with me, ultimately gobbles everything up but me.
So, where is it going? For the 2000’s, here are three words I’ve seen expressed and movements toward something more. Word #1 Spiritual – people want to be in a church where God is present, something bigger, something that transcends all that they are, something of the literal presence of God hovering. People want to be where they sense God which can be in a house or a building or somewhere else. Word #2 Global – I know, I know you’re saying that’s just you Bob! No, it isn’t. It’s global in terms of the big picture of the world, but also the big picture of everything, how it fits together and finding your place in that. Whereas previous Christian religions would start with me – this one starts beyond me with the big picture of where it’s all going. Word #3 Activism – that was Mike or Jordan’s word – but it’s true. Social justice, poverty alleviation, race relations, pick your poison, the idea is faith isn’t theatre though it may be drama. Faith isn’t limited to pain alleviation and the healing of wounds – though that’s part of it. No faith changes me, and it changes others around me, and it changes my community and my world. It is the redemption and reconciliation of all things.
The downside to this is that in time we will see, if we could project, that spirituality becomes too associated with emotion. If we could project global that if not seen in the light of the local it could be too overwhelming and lead to the massiveness of the world’s problems causing people to do nothing. We could become activist-driven where we are driven more by people’s pain than God’s love and that would be a tragedy. BUT, I would say this, if Jesus were to identify more with the church of the 80’s, 90’s, or 2000’s I think it would be the 2000’s. They seemed to define his ministry more than the other three categories, not to say all three don’t matter.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.