[Continued from Tearing Things Apart: Part Four]
Today’s church is quickly fading into oblivion, obscurity, and uselessness. If we don’t shift gears soon, we’ll be reduced to an irrelevant social club. I believe we need to undertake a major overhauling, and return to our roots (which are planted in the Gospel of Christ).
It will take the faith as that of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) to believe we can tear our institutional structures apart with the positive intent of rebuilding them in a helpful manner. Even if we have the faith to believe it, we’ll need the courage to actually carry it out—even to merely begin the process.
Can We Divest?
Most of us won’t even consider such bold moves. We all have too much invested in today’s church. Paid clergy are invested in their retirement plans (that includes me). Congregations are invested in their buildings and other property. Denominations are invested in their territory. Most of us are unwilling to risk all (or even any) of it to undertake a real reformation.
Jesus said some rather interesting things about investment. In Matthew 6:19-21, he tells us that our investments should be made in the treasures of heaven rather than earthly ones. He added that our hearts would gravitate toward the things in which we’re invested. In other words, if we spend all our time accumulating things that will be gone some day, we’re barking down the wrong hole.
Don’t get me wrong. We have to invest in a few earthly things. I’m not interested in walking around naked or sleeping out in a field, for example. If I don’t invest in clothing and housing, I’ll be useless to anyone before long. If I read the Gospel correctly, it’s when we become consumed with these things that we head down the wrong path.
“The church should be a lifeboat…”
If we, as the church, don’t begin to change a few things soon, we’ll be forced into major changes later—drastic changes, unless I miss my bet. Floating along with the tide is casual, easy, and relaxing. But if we continue to do so, we’ll end up out to sea in need of rescue. Being rescued is great unless you’re the one who’s supposed to be doing the rescuing. The church should be a lifeboat, not a piece of driftwood.
I realize that what I’ve laid out in these past five blogs stimulates a whole lot more questions than answers. In fact, I’ve proposed no answers at all. I’ve got a few ideas, but I’m not putting them out there for one important reason.
Each of us as individuals (as well as each individual congregation) needs to follow Jesus where he takes us. What I might suggest could be an entirely different route than he’s laying out for you. Each of us must take the journey we’re called to travel. We can’t simply do what the guys down the street are doing. We’ve already tried that.
Trust Jesus to take you where he wants you to go. He’s actually pretty good at that.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]