October 14, 2014
Spoiler alert! Many will not find this very encouraging.
As many of you know we have a preschool here at Mt. Vernon Church that has existed for many, many years. Even as I write this I can hear the children playing outside of my office window. At the end of each school year we have a graduation ceremony for the students who will be advancing to kindergarten in the fall. Each of the children stands before all the accumulated guests including their parents and sometimes grandparents while the teacher introduces them and tells some of their qualities and accomplishments from the previous year. Things like: “This is Karen. She is a nice girl who makes friends quickly. She likes to color…” This past spring one of the little boys was being introduced and at the end of his accolades the teacher said, “…and he wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up.” Naturally there was a good natured chuckle from the adults. I was standing in the back of the room and here is what I wanted to do and say. I wanted to raise my hand and say, “I already am!” Do you know what I mean? When I look at the values and morals of our culture… I realize I am WAY out of step. I’m not complaining mind you but I do find it very disconcerting.
I have similar thoughts when I think of The Church in our country. Depending on who’s counting there are 4000-7000 churches closing in the United States each year. And 1500 ministers permanently leave the church EVERY MONTH! http://djchuang.com/2010/churches-closing-and-pastors-leaving/ That’s 18,000 a year, kids! Don’t get me wrong, there are a few churches that are going great guns, but they are, by and large, a huge exception. And there are churches opening on every block these days… but they are again almost without exception being attended by folks who have left other churches. The point being there are few “new believers” being spawned despite what the intention might be.
So, what does all of this mean for us dinosaurs? It’s interesting to note that a little over 100 years ago England was the #1 exporter of missionaries in the world. I am told that England and most of Europe is now a spiritual wasteland. In 100 years! That is a blip on the radar screen of history! If I were to ask you what you think might be the status of The Church in the USA in 100 years I wonder what you might say? You might begin with, “If there is a USA in 100 years!?”… and then maybe some dire predictions regarding the Faith. Or maybe not. You could be one of those people who follow the “snake oil salesmen” who see revival around every corner. Good luck with that. I am not a prophet. And I don’t think I’m a quitter. But I am a realist. And I do know something about the history of The Church as it has risen and fallen in various cultures through the centuries. What is happening to us is by no means unprecedented. As a matter of fact it is more the norm.
The Good News is this… The Church is flourishing in other parts of the world! Africa, South America, Korea… and some speculate that there may be more Christians in China than any country in the world. It just so happens that The Church is “underground” so it’s hard to quantify.
There may be reasons for anxiety as we watch the demise of our society and our culture. And I for sure am greatly concerned about the world my children will live in when they are my age. But there is no reason to be concerned about The Church. Do you remember this quote from Jesus?
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
No doubt “The Church” will look very different in the future. And what we have known in the past will likely disappear. But I’m confident that it’s in good “Hands.” Aren’t you?