Tuesday, October 18, 2011
And So The Church
Last week the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, gathered for its annual meeting in Phoenix. The media pounced when stats were released indicating SBC membership had shrunk for the fourth consecutive year. In addition (or should I say subtraction), the number of baptisms declined by over 17,000 in 2010 compared to 2009. This is the eighth drop in 10 years.To build anew, demolition is necessary. Before the are new wineskins, the old must be discarded. "It is no longer I who live," death, "but Christ who lives within me," resurrection. The cycle is undeniable and God's hand at work cannot be doubted. It's not remodeling, it's not a coat of paint or some new fixtures, it is demolition and reconstruction, from the very foundations.
A few years ago I interviewed Dallas Willard about the state of the church. The wide-ranging conversation touched on the lack of discipleship, the insecurity of ministry leaders, the church’s infatuation with business values, and the inadequacy of our seminaries. Finally I asked Dr. Willard, “Are you ever discouraged by all of this?”
“I am not discouraged,” he quickly replied, “because I believe that Christ is in charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what he is doing and he is marching on.”
What is my point? I’m not saying we should put our heads in the sand and ignore the grim realities that face many churches and denominations in the West. We have been called to do our work in the garden of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:5-15), and we will be judged for the faithfulness of our labor. But we must remember that the outcomes, the growth and fruit, belong to Christ and not us.
And holding firmly to this truth, we should not succumb to the doom and despair that seem to be worn with pride by many young church leaders these days. The truth is that some, even many, local and regional expressions of the church may well decline and die. But Christ is ever at work cultivating life out of death. Ultimately his Church will be just fine. So, while many both inside and outside the family of God take some perverse pleasure in declaring “The church is dead,” we can with full faith and confidence shout in response, “Long live the Church!”
The question is whether we will be among the demolished or the rebuilt. Will you allow your self to be demolished so that you can be rebuilt, or will you slap on a few coats of paint, hide the imperfections and try to keep the structure standing?
And here is where the faith comes in - we do not know what the new building will look like, not a clue, we can dream and imagine, but they are insufficient to hold the glory. All we can see is the demolition.
Are you demolishable?