There is a building in Charleston near where I work that looks like a building that you would see in a movie made in the 50's. As I walk down the corridors of this building, I see the old thick doors, the glass venting windows opening into the hallway above each entrance. The elevator is tiny and the stairs are ornate. Walking through this building to an office is like taking a step back in time. It is clean and very well maintained, but not at all modern.
There is a certain charm to it, but there is also a feeling of disconnection. This might not be a place I would want to work. What about air conditioning? What about wireless internet and energy efficient lighting? What about accessibility? The building is old, comfortable and well maintained, but seems stuck in a previous decade.
Are our churches sometimes like this? I don't mean the buildings, although since I serve on the Finance Committee, I know how much money is spent maintaining our old building. I'm talking about our faith. Do we, as a church, have a faith that is old, comfortable and well maintained, but disconnected from the present time?
I know God is eternal and unchanging, but our faith, and the way we live it out is not God. It must change. Christianity is all about change. We are in the business of transformation.
At NAUMF this year, Gil Rendle spoke about the changing culture and how the church is not changing in order to continue to be a relevant force in society. The GI generation - the time in the 20th century when the church was "booming" -- shared an idea of group identification. There was a sense of sameness, deferred pleasure and stewardship. Those in the church were part of a group, and that membership defined them. To these people, space had a sense of spirituality. In comparison, the generation today is an generation of individuals. The culture no longer asks where people belong, but instead asks who we are. Instead of sacrificial giving, stewardship is about generosity -- how do I apply myself to make a difference? There is a spirituality associated with journey instead of space. The basic model of discipleship asks the question, "How will my engagement with Christ and the church change my life and other people's lives?"
Before you start thinking thoughts like "this generation today; what's up with them" stop and consider that this generation today is correcting the one before it. All of our generations do that. So be open to the idea that this is something new and might have many wonderful things to offer in the way of faith.
Aside from that, if we continue to try to maintain what is comfortable for us -- if we fail to maintain relevancy to the present day generation, then the church will fail in its purpose. We will not change people's lives. We will not be a force for God to use to bring about his kingdom.
We'll be comfortable, but we won't be a church.