Hello Brothers & Sisters,
Every generation of the Church is located in a particular time and place within human history. When I was in high school, we had a word in response to a statement like that: “Duh!” In other words, that’s obvious. But here is the thing, while we can all easily acknowledge that statement is true, the Church often has a difficult time understanding what it means for how we should disciple folks, how we should evangelize, and how we should worship as the Body of Christ in our own context. So, I’d like us to consider two questions to help us think about where we are in time.
First, How should our church change in response to culture so that we are relevant to the people around us? Now, I don’t mean “relevant” in the way of mirroring the culture. We certainly don’t need more of that. No, I’m talking about using the gospel and our church practices to speak directly to where people are so that they might experience God’s presence and power; that the good news speaks to our needs, our fears, our anxieties, our politically polarized society, and everything else that is challenging and troubling us in our post-modern world.
Being relevant means that outdated programs and methods have to be laid to rest so that new expressions of ministry might be born to keep in step with the Spirit. We’ve been working on that at Grantham over the past few years. This is partly what growth looks like in the church. Even though growing comes with some aches and pains, if we’re going to effectively minister to people in the present and follow the Spirit into the future, we can celebrate the past while keeping our hearts open to ways the Spirit is leading today. It’s a challenge every local church faces, but we can meet the challenge.
And just think about how fast the world around us has changed since 9/11. As one church and culture researcher recently said, “For most of our American history, cultural and technological change was gradual, sufficiently paced for churches to lag only 5 to 10 years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the speed of change increases dramatically. To many people, the church seems irrelevant.” Friends, I don’t believe that Grantham Church is irrelevant. God’s Spirit is at work and on the move! And I believe that whatever we need to do to remain relevant, the Lord will equip us to re-contextualize, change our approach, and adapt to the shifting culture around us so that we might continue shining the light of Christ to our neighbors. Let’s pray to that end.
So, change is important for every living organism But we need to ask an equally important question, What should remain the same? What traditions or historical practices help to keep us rooted in who we are (distinctives), connected to the larger Church (unity), and help us to proclaim that we are part of an old story that is ongoing—that the Spirit is alive within our congregation (mission)! You might be surprised to know that a growing number of young adults today (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) are not looking for a hipster, make-it-up-as-you-go church. They see great value in tradition and being connected to the past.
As Winfield Bevins says in his book, “Rather than looking for the new, they are returning to the old—even as they seek convergence between the old and new and develop new approaches to ancient traditions. Everything old is becoming new again” (Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Allure of Liturgy for a New Generation, pg.31).
That is what our fall series Spiritual and Religious is all about. An increasing number of people are longing for a Christianity that is more authentic, holistic, embodied, liturgical—something ancient, something new. They are seeking a faith that embraces mystery over empiricism, transcendence over scientism, and faith over certainty. They are not against sound doctrine, they just want a generous orthodoxy that welcomes everyone. They want a faith that more closely resembles the Jesus of the Gospels and the Christianity of the first few centuries of the Church. That sounds good to me. How about you?
I hope you will join us this Sunday as we continue to be challenged and inspired to embrace the mystery and liturgical power of the Christian faith—a way of life that is both spiritual and religious. In the meantime, may God bless you with his presence and surround you in his love as you seek to follow Jesus this week. God is for us, not against us. Selah.
Grace & Peace,
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