“The Harvest is bountiful but the laborers are few.” This statement by Jesus is quite applicable for the church today. The situation in most of our Christ centered denominations is that not only do we have fewer members, but fewer leaders, pastor’s ministers and priests. Does this mean the decline of Christianity? I don’t think so, but it does make me think that we will need to change in some radical ways.
People don’t want to be members of the church because they see the church as only about itself, or that we are judgmental and exclusive. People don’t want to become leaders in the church because they see the response by some members of churches to sermons or programs that make them nervous or are too liberal. By the way I am not a fan of the words, liberal or conservative, they are stereotypical and not very helpful.
The church as we know it now, will not be the same in 10 years. It will have less people, fewer pastors, priests and ministers and will not have members that look like the folks who are in congregations today. They will be much older or more diverse, one has a future the other does not. The church will change or the organizational institutions that we call churches will be doomed or be non-existent. This does not mean there will not be Christianity or followers of Christ. But the buildings and institutions we call churches will operate in some very different ways than we know now.
Does this vision make me sad? A little, I have served in the church my entire adult life so far and it would be a shock to my system that that which I grew up with is not the same anymore. The fact is that this is happening now and at least one or two generations are feeling what I will feel in 10 years. Is this bad, not necessarily. There will be pain and struggle, there will be loss and growth, but the followers of Christ will still be here but many institutions that are churches will not.
What I am hoping for the church in the years to come, is that young people will be a part of a community of faith that no longer is inward turning, but looking outward seeing what it can do to serve Christ by serving their neighbors. I long for a church that worships, not views a performance and through worship becomes more engaged in that which is Holy. I long for a church that uses it resources to help others, not itself and sees it leaders as spiritual not administrative.
I do not see the church in North America returning to its “Glory Years” of the 60s and 70s. But I do see us as a stronger and reforming church that is bold in its proclamation of the Gospel in both word and deed. That not only do we talk the talk but walk the walk. This is my hope and prayer inspired by the knowledge that no matter what happens in the future, there is Christ’s love and his promises to us will never be broken.