Church, A Time For Self Examination.
Early “last” century, most people who attended a local village or town church grew up in the church, attended church all through their adolescence, married in the same church, and raised their families in that church, and got buried on that church’s grounds. Culturally, that is not the trend in the 21st century as Americans are more mobile, seek jobs away from their upbringing roots, do not live where they were raised, and feel Facebook, MySpace, Skype, and other social media networks keep them informed of their roots thought they are not there physically. With this change in cultural trends, the Church also needs to examine what they are “equipping” or “preparing” those who are under their wings for. Some food to stimulate discussion:
Christian youth groups “hang out” together, establishing relationships. Peer pressure and peer acceptance are at the forefront. When going to Christian Youth Conferences, they are told to save every person in their school, change the world, and win the world for Christ. Sounds good, but how? Do our churches look beyond their teen years to equip, prepare, or train our teens for their independence and self-searching 20’s. Do we equip them by teaching each one of them how to read the Word, the Bible, on their own and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them, so when they go off to college, or in the army, or move away for a starter position job they can be grounded in the Word and in their faith? Do our churches equip, prepare, or train our teens how to establish a daily, vibrant prayer life, a life of worship, a life of intimate relationship with Jesus? When they go off to seek who they are, trying to find themselves, their identities, will they have to tools, the equipment needed spiritually to establish their own sound beliefs through the Bible while trusting the Holy Spirit, or will they stray from the church in their search?
What if on the church door hung a sign “Building Condemned, Do Not Enter” or “The Practice of Religion Is Prohibited At This Place”? What would those in your congregation do? Has the local church equipped, prepared, and trained each of its members to stand on their own faith? What is that faith? Now is the time to test the depths of that faith? If they couldn’t call the pastor or his staff, what would they do to survive on their own? If no one has been trained to lead, who will lead? If no one has been equipped or developed to serve, who will serve? If one felt lost in the large mega-church crowd on Sundays, who will they seek out to fellowship with?
If you had to leave your church today, what would be in your spiritual toolbox that you would pull out to use in your new life’s adventure? What has your local church “invested” that is now part of you? Who would preach or teach the Word? Could you? Do you need to be “lead” into worship, or can you do it on your own? If you can’t call on others, what would your prayer life look like? If those you have been fellowshipping with were no longer around, who would you begin fellowshipping with? Would your social life change?
As a 21st Century Church we must ask, “What are we equipping, preparing, or training those in our church to do?” How are we to equip, prepare, and train them if we do not know what we are training them for? What do we “really” need to move ahead in our faith journey if our circumstances or location changes? If church activities were stripped from your life because of circumstances, sickness, moving, etc., what would you be able to do spiritually?
These are some tough questions, but I ask, “What have we, as Christians, been called to do horizontally in relationship with one another that would prepare our faith for life’s surprises and the next step in our faith journeys?” Church is about our vertical relationship with God, our understanding of Him, and how we relate to Him and worship Him. Church is also about horizontal relationships, and the challenge of these blogs has been to question how we are to “equip”, prepare, or train one another “for the work of the service”, establishing, maintaining, and moving the kingdom of God forward. That is the challenge of the 21st Century Church!