concerning what it is our church - any church - needs to do to reclaim
vitality and press forward amidst malaise, conflict, and erosion.
After all, the mainline church in America is bleeding congregants, as
less and less people attend traditional church regularly and the real
juice seems to be in newer and flashier types of set-ups. Do we
Presbyterians need an extreme makeover? Do we need to get with the
times? Do we concede that this generation is post-Christian, and make
do with who we do have in the doors?
Emphatically no on all three counts. The big-picture perspective is
that God is still in the business of saving souls and redeeming
structures, even us sinful Christians and our broken churches. The
real Jesus is much more earthy, in-your-face, and (gasp) relevant to
21st century America than many realize; its just we Christians have
done good job coating a layer of dust over God's Word and a lousy job
of living it out in radical and contemporary ways.
Are soothing messages, easy on-ramps, and exponentially growing
congregations even necessarily good things? Perhaps not. Jesus
Himself, and those He praised most, had some pretty stinging words for
the religious establishment. He said not to bother following Him
unless you died to self and sold your possessions. And His fan base
winnowed to zero by the end of His life.
Of course, we know how His story on earth ends: not with irrelevance
and defeat but with triumph and exaltation. Yet another Christian
paradox, and one we should be mindful of when we consider what it is
we need to do as congregations to represent His life in our corporate
lives. Yes, we need to market Jesus, in terms of proclaiming Him and
making Him accessible to those who need Him. It just may look awfully
different than we might have constructed on our own, save the example
of His own life.