In the current Presbyterian Record there is an engaging article by John Longhurst asking important questions about the long-term vision of the Record and its role in our church. I don’t want to comment much on the article so much as say that it makes me feel very uncreative. For a pastor who blogs most weeks, preaches weekly, prays publicly with many people, leads conversations, and is generally expected to have ideas, visions, and new dreams, I sometimes feel less than capable of the constant creative thinking required by all these roles.
Longhurst discusses the role of church media as shifting and notes that one denominational magazine has changed from considering itself a magazine to considering itself a “content distribution system.” I wonder what it would mean for our churches if we took more seriously Jesus command that we go make disciples and baptize them? What I mean is simply this, if making disciples means anything surely it means helping them discover God’s grace and it’s meaning for their lives. In other words it means the church is a “Gospel Distribution Network.”
We tend to think of church as present for our purposes or as a place rather than as a group. We speak about “giving back to the community” as though we are somehow separate from it (just like we talk as though we aren’t part of the environmental systems we inhabit). We think a church is a vehicle for praising God through music and prayer, and certainly that is part of the mandate of any Christian church. For the most part we are good at that part. I say we are good, knowing as well as you the gloomy statistics. I take those to mean not that we are bad at what we do in worship but that we are incomplete in what we do. We ignore the call to spread the Good News beyond our doors at our own peril, a lesson we are proving slow to learn.
When I talk to people about their faith, about if or when they share it with non-Christians, if and when they invite people to the church, either to worship or to social activities, I often get blank stares. Many people simply assume no one else is interested in church, and yet we all agree they ought to be interested, and we mostly agree that we are interested. So then why the assumption no one else is? More importantly, why allow that assumption to curtail our following of the command to spread the news?
If we saw ourselves as following Jesus’s call to make disciples of all the world rather than only those within our walls, how would that change the way we “do” church? Here is where I feel I lack creativity. Longhurst says that when it comes to church media answering the question of what its future looks like he is reminded of an old Irish joke: a traveller is lost in rural Ireland. He stops a farmer and asks “how do I get to Dublin from here” Replies the farmer: “Well. If that’s where you want to go, I wouldn’t start from here.” Sadly, that is how I often feel about the church and its ability to bring the lost home.
The good news is that it isn’t all up to me, and it’s not all up to you either (though we each have our portion of the work to do), it’s up to God. He has always empowered, motivated, encouraged and provided for his church and he will continue to do so. Perhaps we need to pray harder, listen more carefully for him, or maybe we just need to have a cup of coffee with a friend and mention how important our faith and our church is to our daily lives.
Heh. Sounds like the stirrings of “vision”. I like your vision, if I can call it that. It’s really, almost stupidly, simple: Go out and make disciples, go out and spread the gospel to the world (or at least to Duncan), right? My old church in Red Deer had this vision: “To allow everyone in Red Deer and Central Alberta to have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It was also a refreshingly simple, humble, and audacious vision.