Reflecting so deeply on Cheesehead's news and which touches the still healing wound of my soul, I am truly wondering what is happening with our churches. The majority of churches seem to be struggling for survival - even the ones who are welcoming and hospitable, use screens and power point, blended worship, etc.
I have heard that even the Big Tree Community in the posh suburb of Chicago has attendance down by 23%. That's almost a quarter of worshippers and attendees.
Has church become irrelevent to folks, to our society?
Are people not wanting to live deeply any more - wanting simple answers, attend a feel good motivation session and not be any more involved?
If that is where people are right now, than our churches will continue to struggle. What is a community of faith? Bound together in the love and faith of Christ, developing a deeper life, hearing what we need to hear and not merely what we want to hear, being asked something of ourselves and our lives, to give sacrificially out of love for Christ and one another, to make disciples, to know there is no greater joy in life than to be held in God's love, to sing, to pray, to challenge, to support one another in our life's journey of faith and relationship with God.
I suppose I'm old fashioned, not with it. But I don't watch or like reality TV which is mindless and takes not much creativity, imagination, or intelligence to produce. where is the sharp comedy of MASH, FRAZIER, SEINFELD, etc.
We have become mediocre and have settled for things mediocre. We fill our lives with triviality on Facebook and Twitter. Do I really care or need to know that you're wearing pink flipflops or having a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Let me know how it is with your soul, where you find true and lasting hope, where the grace is in your life, what are your hopes and dreams.
I pray for our churches, I pray for Cheesehead, for pastors serving churches. It is a dark time.
So many of our churches are anxious about their survival and it seems that their pastor is an easy target for their underlying anxiety, even if the pastor has done much to allay anxiety, to be prophetic, to build up, to be faithful to God's intent and desire. I wonder how many more pastors will bear the burden and the brunt of such anxiety. LH and I both have and I know there are others.
Church is us together in the Lord. It is not the pastor's fault for these cosmic shifts that are presently occurring. We all must look to ourselves, see that we all bear responsibility, see that we are all imperfect and yet, held in grace. Unfortunately, it is usually the pastors that are the scapegoats. (except for the ones who are truly incompetent).
And in the end, we are called to bring God's message, to love and to serve, to embody hope, and to keep trusting God through all the changes and chaos in the universe and in our lives. We keep going because the message of God's love, grace and transformation is too great not to share.
In this near Advent time, Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Take hold of the hurting and bring the shalom of your healing. Embrace the anxious and fill them with hope. Bring your joy to our churches. Sound the love song of our lives that the universe may reverberate with your goodness and glory. Amen.
That is my prayer.