It’s my wife’s favorite pair of questions. They are good ones. They are on my mind this morning because I was in a meeting last night where we discussed how to help our church grow. My few readers may know that I’ve been reading books like Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church. While I am not completely convinced that some of Mr. Viola’s Biblical interpretations are correct, overall I find the message refreshing. I’ve recently read another book from a few years back, Organic Church by Neil Cole. It strengthens my conviction that our traditional church models are not likely to last. If our country keeps on the way it’s going, churches as we know them may be forced out of existence. We will be back to meeting in small home based churches whether we like it or not. I pray revival comes before we get to that point, but maybe that’s exactly what we need to draw us back to true devotion to Yahweh. In saying that I’m not implying that traditional church is the root of our problem. It may be considered a symptom.
What does all of this mean to us? Specifically, what is my response as a committed member of a body that despite some unique qualities is very much a traditional church? We talked about bringing in more people. We talked about ways to help the people we have to develop and mature. All of the time I am thinking, “what if what we need to do looks completely different than anything that has been done before?” Our pastor spoke of patience. That is certainly what we need, for if the radical transformation I anticipate is to happen, it will take time. It will take a willingness to work with people and circumstances as they are now, not as we wish they were. In fact I don’t know that we know what we wish they were? I think we probably have very different visions of what a successful ministry is going to look like.
I for one, though ready and willing to operate within the construct where God has placed us, have been dissatisfied with the same old thing for years. We do have an unusual mix of flavors in our church that appeals to me, but if we don’t keep adding to the mix it will quickly grow stale and unappetizing. If everything we did could be traced to a firm Biblical foundation, then I would say that we must proceed as we are out of obedience, but most of what we do is just a combination of tradition and personal preference. In that we are no different than any church I’ve ever been in, though each had its own strengths.
I hasten to add that I love our church and the people in it. I believe our mission is God given and will work in whatever capacity I am asked to see that mission accomplished. I’m only questioning the methods we will use in the future. I believe we will carry on. If the Lord doesn’t come back before then, I want to see the next generation take up the cause. My question is this: does the Bartimaeus Baptist Temple of 2020 look anything like the one we know and love today, or is it something we would even recognize? Is there a better way to reach people and families affected by disability than our traditional church models regardless of denominational affiliation are able to provide? I hope that by saying that I believe so I do not gravely offend those whom I hope to work with in building this future, but I feel it would be dishonest of me to say nothing of what’s going through my mind. It is my prayer that we grow in love and unity of purpose until God forges from this raw material something greater than any of us imagined.