It is said that somewhere between 6,000 & 10,000 Christian churches are closing every year. There is no escaping the truth that the institutional church is declining… rapidly, & many are asking, “What does it mean to be a Christian today?”
Last November I had the opportunity to join a group of others in the House of Jacob Synagogue where my friend Rev. Ray Matheson & Rabbi Yisroel Millar debated the question, ‘Is There A Future For Judaism & Christianity in Canada?’ The two of them presented some great arguments both for & against institutional survival. Whether you choose one polarity over the other, we are all going to have to answer how humanity’s spirituality will be practiced in future; institutionally or otherwise.
That was the query that stood out most to me during the question period; “So what are we suppose to do today?” I don’t think the church is going to disappear tomorrow. But even if it did, the reality is humanity has felt relationally called to a divine or spiritual nature since the dawn of existence. Should the institution of the church disappear tomorrow, our spirituality will endure through new found expressions & traditions freed from institutional restrictions.
In 597 BC, Babylon conquered the remaining Jewish nation of Judah. Leading them into exile, many were looking back at the ruins of their Temple, synagogues, & religious works while asking the same questions we are asking today. The prophet Jeremiah spoke for God saying:
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:5-7)
This is where we find the calling & mission of the church today. Not in the perpetuation of institutional multiplication. Nor the overseas replication of ecclesiology’s modelled around the typical North American church. But in the daily life of living with purpose & the keeping of our neighbours welfare & wellbeing.
Recently, my friend Preston Pouteaux wrote in Faith Today Magazine on Keystone people (See It HERE). In his words:
“Keystone people are the community connectors, those who see small ideas and bring them to life. They are the eyes of the city, the sages who observe and find patterns. They work to bring pieces together, redeem what is broken and strive for peace. Keystone people instil a sense of hope that grows beyond themselves, often sacrificially. They love deeply and genuinely, serving with a deep character-shaped influence. They are humble and create a culture of growth, breathing life into everything they do.”
If we want to be part of the church tomorrow, we need to become Keystone people. So next time you are in prayer, listening & worshiping God in song, dwelling on written words; why not walk the neighbourhood & see the places of beauty & spiritual richness around you? Next time you desire to break bread & remember, why not invite the neighbours over & share over the supper table? When you see that great need in your city & community, why not join a group of others & seek to change it? Instead of questioning how we can save the church of our past, let’s become the church of the future!
Enjoy the podcast.