“What is the difference between a living thing and a dead thing? In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple. It’s that scary.”
― Leonard Sweet
Anything that is healthy, anything that is living, anything that is productive… changes. Why? It can’t help it.
To be alive is to change. We don’t have to like it; in fact… we don’t like it, but the inevitability of change is something that everyone has to decide whether to embrace and engage in or to ignore, thereby fading into obscurity.
This could never be more practical and applicable than when discussing the church.
However, change in the church is, in my personal experience, the most difficult thing to explain, navigate and accomplish. After all, everything else is always changing… why can’t we have one place to rely on? One place that maintains the status quo? One place of peace and rest in a world of chaos?
These are great questions if you’re really looking for an answer. The answer, simply put, is that the church was formed by God to be in the world (not “of the world,” but “in it”) and the make-up of the church (the Christ-ones) were gifted by God to cultivate and create a Kingdom culture.
IMPLICATIONS – WHY SHOULD WE CHANGE?
We live in and have been commissioned to an ever changing world. What is the commission? To bring change (ie. Jesus), primarily through the visible change that He is actively doing in us.
This commission requires a number of things, then, from the Christ-one and from the gathered church. First, it requires us to be cultivators—men and women who preserve those things which are best. This has very little to do with practice or tradition, as those things tend to ebb and flow based on culture. This has everything to do with excellence in the unchangeable, namely truth and solid doctrine.
Second, the commission from God requires that the Christ-one (and the gathered church) be informed creators (imaging our Creator God). An informed creator is one who studies the surrounding culture and engages it in pertinent and often revolutionary ways. These engagements are always new because they are relationally, emotionally and culturally driven. However, just to be clear, new does not necessarily mean innovative. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be an informed creator, but you may need to learn a new way of using or engaging with that “wheel.” Informed creation is all about methodology.
Third, this commission demands supernatural charisma. I don’t mean that you have to be James Bond-charming (with a hint of danger) or Shakespeare-witty or Johann Goethe-intelligent. Instead, I’m talking about the Holy Spirit. While you may be able to make a ripple in the pond of human history by your own personal effort, you will never change the current or make a wave without the help of God the Holy Spirit.
SOOO… WHEN YOU SAY CHANGE?
Just to be clear, when I say that we should change I don’t mean that we change for the sake of change or that we change to be “different” from the other Bible thumpers that surround us. I also don’t mean that we change according to Christian culture (which I’ll delve more deeply into that in another post).
Instead, the change that is required is a change in the way we communicate, interact, enjoy, experience, serve, learn and worship our eternal God.
We must challenge and change the way that we “do” church. We must challenge and change the historical and traditional ways that we engage in our regular gatherings. We need to consider the way forward in the world and in the setting that God has equipped, called and commissioned us.
For me (and my wonderful church family) that is the great state of New Jersey.
The truth is, the present way of “doing” church isn’t engaging and transforming our culture [an excellent book on this whole subject is Culture Making by Andy Crouch]. While we have a number of vibrant churches in our area, they mostly seem to reach the disillusioned, de-churched youth culture and good Christian families (with children) that want dynamic programs for their little ones.
I’m not downing those churches. I love those churches. They reach an itch that we can’t.
And I’m not downing the de-churched or the Christian husband and wife that wants their kids to love church… more power to them. We need those types of people and we need those types of churches.
WHO ARE WE FOR? (specifically FLBC)
For our part, here in NJ, we want to be a place for the rest. We don’t major in social justice (so if you’re looking to save the penguins or provide fresh water to the world, that’s not our primary drive—although we invest in stuff like that). We’re not going to be the best option for Christian singles looking to mingle or for families with children who want their youth/children’s pastor to be a paintball loving, BMX riding, emoji texting, indi rocking, fashion savvy, pop culture expert who “gets them.” (Here again, not downing those people or those ministries… we need/want them here in Jersey… that’s just not where we’re at).
Likewise, we won’t be striving to be a comfortable place for an older generation that only wants to have things the way that they remember growing up with or a doctrinally dogmatic church that demand 100% adherence to our secondary biblical convictions (as opposed to the primary ones concerning Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, Sin, Salvation and Grace). Once again, not downing those ministries.
In fact, I don’t know if I could pinpoint who we are “for.”
I know this: if you have legitimate doubts about the Bible and its validity, if you are skeptical of the claims of Christianity, if you want people to walk beside you as you figure things out, if you have legitimate questions and/or you just want to understand the Biblical worldview… if you want all this without being asked or forced to participate in foreign tradition (to you) or strange ritualist practice, we want to be the place where that’s possible.
Honestly, we have some work to do to become this sort of place.
Truth is… we kind of need you! We need you to help us create this sort of truth and grace culture. We need you to value and appreciate and engage in our effort. We need you to challenge our traditions and our worldview.
And what’s more… we want you!