So, I was thinking that one of the biggest causes of anxiety and fear today (at least for me – but I don’t think I’m alone) is the pace and depth of change. Change to every aspect of life happens at a dizzying pace. The changes are not minor adjustments, they are huge shifts in the way we think, work, eat, spend, and yes – worship & believe. It is as if somebody stuffed the world as we know it in a blender and pressed the highest speed — and left it there!
Think about just a few things: In 1900 there were less than 10,000 cars in the US. We send 247 billion emails every single day. 20 years ago most of us didn’t know what email was. The youngest among us believe that email is a dinosaur and use it less and less. I got my first cellphone in 1996. In 2000 there were 93 million cell phones. Ten years later it was 293 million. I typed my first term papers in college on a portable typewriter. Then I moved to a “PC” – which is now obsolete, replaced by my smartphone and tablet. In 1970, nearly 90% of the American population was “white.” In 2008, less than 75% were “white.” By 2050 it will be closer to 50%. College educations and home ownership, two foundations of middle-class stability, are in serious decline.
Welcome to life in the blender. Change is the agenda for every day in the world around us. It is an exhausting way of life. It is then very natural and expected that we will come to church hoping to avoid the whirling blades of change. After all, as the Bible declares, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) The world can change, but leave the church alone, we might declare. Unfortunately, Jesus also says: “See, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
So, the reality is that church has to go in the blender too. There is no way to insulate ourselves from the change, or somehow just wish it would go away. Consider just a few facts: The fastest growing group in the religious landscape are “nones” – those who claim or desire no religious affiliation. The growth in the ranks of “nones” comes from previous church members. We often think that when someone leaves our congregation they go somewhere else. The fact is that up to 90% just leave and go nowhere. In 1980, most of your neighbors went to church on Sunday morning. You are a serious minority when you pull out of the drive and head to church today. 25-40% of Christian congregations will not exist in the next decade or two. Of the 4-5 generations that could inhabit the church today, we are losing (or have lost) 3.5. Studies show that when young people disappear after confirmation or high school graduation, they do not often return when they start raising families. Welcome to the church in the blender.
I know by now you are saying “Thanks for completely ruining my day.” That is not my intent. The fact is that the church, and the world, have been through the blender before and God has always made some tasty dish out of the mixture. Change is not evil, nor is it the enemy, it just is what it is. How we respond is the challenge is the crucial issue. Sadly, while everything in the world has changed, the reaction of the church has been to make its mission to stay the same, which makes us irrelevant.
Over the next several weeks, we are moving into the 5th and final section of Foundations – the course on the Christian faith that meets every Wednesday evening. In this module, called Our Calling, we will look at the changes that we face and examine how we answer God’s call to change both as a congregation and as individual disciples. We will work to discern where we are going and what God is calling us to do. If you have been curious, frustrated, angered, worried about the changes around us and in the church, come and join us. If you would like to be part of the discussion about how we respond to the changes in this world as a congregation, come and join us. We meet at 6 PM on Wednesday in the sanctuary.
Pax Christi, Pastor Tim