10 Ways The Church Might Change: Point 2
[In previous blogs I have outlined 10 possible changes the Church may face in the future. This is point 2 in the series: The Church has worked hard on its vertical relationship with God through worship and praise (John 3:16). Now it will be forced to work on the horizontal relationship of brother/sister to brother/sister in redefining how the family of God functions (IJohn 3:16). Where those two planes intersect is at the center of the Cross, thus reinforcing that the Cross is the center of the Christian experience. There is where the Church will find the Presence of God!]
The cross is an intersection of two perpendicular lines. In the Christian life, it represents relationships. I grew up being told that man, Adam, had a fulfilled relationship with God until he sinned. That relationship, horizontal, was broken between he and his God, and soon the depravity of that broken relationship became evident between man and his with relationship with each other when Cain killed his brother Abel. The relationship was restored when God sent his Son, Jesus to earth to be the sacrificial lamb to break the gulf of a broken relationship caused by sin. That vertical relationship intersected the horizontal relationship, literally and physically, at the Cross where Jesus died (John 3:16).
Worship is the vertical relationship between God and man. The Church has worked hard on this relationship over the last half a century, and today most church “worship” services, at least the musical segment, emphasizes their vertical relationship with God. Styles of music may vary, but the direction of a believer’s adoration is universal.
Where I believe drastic change in the Church will occur is in the horizontal relationship between brothers and sisters in the Lord (I John 3:16). The Church is known for it’s horizontal relationship as being fractured: denominations, divisions, and sects abound all under the Christian label, yet Jesus prayed for its very unity in John 16, a passage often called the Priestly Prayer. If His prayer is to be answered and fulfilled, drastic change must occur if there is to be unity among the brethren. How do we get past doctrinal differences, historical differences, and cultural differences? Reputations like “Christians don’t heal the wounded among themselves; they just shoot them”, and “The most segregated time during the week in America is when the American churches meet on Sunday mornings,” must vanish. If anyone should know “grace”, “mercy”, “unconditional love”, “loving the unlovely”, etc. it should be the Church! The Church needs to practice those principles among themselves, and the results will be unity.
Unfortunately, the American church has placed much of its priorities and efforts into Sunday morning services. The programs have become very professional with high quality singers and musicians, excellent orators, high tech theatrics with excellent lighting, sound, and projection. Unfortunately as they have worked hard on their theatrical presentations, the involvement among those in their theatrical seats and chairs that have replaced pews have diminished. The attending participants are to “follow” the worship “leaders” as robots. They are told when to stand, when to sit, when to give financially, when to shake hands, when to leave, and when to fellowship. They are never asked to “generate” anything during the service except enthusiasm and financial support. Their singing is lost among the mix of the professional sound system. It’s almost like they lost their voice, because some one, either the pastor or staff, always speaks for them, prays for them, or teaches them. Things that encourage relationships are usually minimized or not present. To reverse the trend would be difficult due to the lure of the lights, sound, and professionalism.
But Christianity is all about relationships: a whole and healthy relationship between God and once fallen man because of a personal relationship with a personal Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ; a reconciliation of broken relationships between man and fellow man, and a transformation of a person within themselves going from an old decrepit, sinful self to a new, healthy, whole person in Jesus Christ.
As a professional educator, I know the importance of relationships with my students. Not to minimize the importance of curriculum, it is the relationships with teachers that students vividly remember: who they loved, who they feared, who they respected, and who they hated. I contribute much of the success that I had as an 8th grade teacher for 40 years to the relationships I built with administrators, teachers, parents, and my students.
As professionals in a Church staff, pastors and supporting staff must recognize the importance of relationships not only with those they serve, but relationships built among the laity with each other. Not to minimize the role of a pastor, or staff, or sermons, or church curriculums, and all things professional, it is the strength of relationships of the common believers among themselves that produces a strong, vibrant, healthy church. If a church doesn’t have these relationships properly built, all the staff ever gets done is what I call “crisis” counseling, which drains the staff, the laity, and the whole entire church of its enthusiasm, energy, drive, and effectiveness. I’ve been involved with churches that live on the edge of each “crisis”, basically because there was little if any relationship among their people.
If the church wants to be more effective to this generation, a cause for change will be in relationships.