I ended my last blog (Tearing Things Apart: Part Three) by saying, “I believe we serve a God who will not allow the church to die. I believe there will always be an ember somewhere—a remnant (as the Bible often puts it). I also believe that the church as we know it will be gone within a few decades. The question is, in my view, what will take her place? If we don’t opt for some major reconstruction, the Lord will have to do it for us.”
This reconstruction will cannot be superficial, and it will probably have consequential changes upon our outward appearance and practice. It will be done from the inside out. It will begin with a deconstruction, and continue with a rebuilding. The scary part, for some, is where we begin again (if we actually do opt for tearing things apart).
A Not So Novel Suggestion
I have a novel suggestion in answer to that. Let’s begin with Scripture. Part of our problem is we have, in many ways, moved so far from the Bible that Biblical Christianity has been obscured by our many layers of programming, theological introspection, and bureaucracy (just to mention a few). We have left the Biblical Jesus behind in exchange for a sanitized Jesus that looks (for all the world) more and more like us.
If we don’t return to the God of Scripture, I suspect the Lord will intervene and begin taking away our options. Let me give you one, small, simple, but important example.
A friend of mine pastors a small congregation of believers whose building is located just down the street from where I serve. He and his flock have run into a major problem with their building (one in which they’ve worshiped for decades. I won’t get into the details, but it’s become increasingly apparent that renovation would be expensive, untenable, and inefficient.
I suggested the possible solution of them sharing our space. It’s certainly not unheard of, and my congregation has done that very thing in the past. They took my suggestion under advisement, prayed about it, and (to their credit) decided to do it God’s way rather than mine.
Forced to Obey
They’re still early in the process, but it looks like they’re going to attempt to relocate to the midst of a neighborhood where they can serve the people who surround them. Instead of trying to get folks to come to them, they’re going to the folks. Interestingly enough, that’s exactly what Jesus did.
In a day when growing churches are moving out of town, further and further away from the crux of their ministries, this congregation is headed in the opposite direction. They’ve been forced into this situation, but (as I see it) that’s not a bad thing.
My question (to myself and to the church universal) is this. Do we have the courage (and, yes, the faith) to do such things before we’re forced into it? It’s scary to tear things apart. Are we willing to follow if God calls? (To be continued…)
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]