Just as society is changing, so is the church and our congregations.
Admittedly, change can be scary. We much prefer staying in our comfort zones. Don’t you think one reason many of us love the Lutheran church is because we value ritual and tradition? I appreciate the fact that we’re following patterns which sometimes go all the way back to the early church.
Yet, sometimes I feel we are resistant to change out of fear. This phobia can hinder our ability to effectively reach out to people in contemporary culture. So much has changed inrecent years that our congregations can easily be left in the dust of our neighbors. Do you sometimes feel like others are zooming by us?
Every congregation I’ve visited is doing wonderful, heart-felt work for God. We have a great core group of faithful saints laboring to help their neighbors in need. However, ask them how it’s going, and they would tell you that what worked 50 or even 30 years ago just doesn’t bring about the same good results. It seems like we’re working harder, but our neighbors aren’t coming to worship like they once did. And, by and large, our numbers are decreasing.
Edward Deming noted the obvious: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not Mandatory”
The opposite is also true: to live is to change. Change can be rewarding; it opens new opportunities to discover innovative ways to bring the gospel to people. Throughout history, the church has changed its methodology many times - though the gospel message remains the same. It’s time to take another one of those steps forward in our ministry here in the Southwestern Washington Synod!
So, how do we cultivate an effective and vital ministry in our contemporary world?
Perhaps, if our neighbors aren't coming to church, then maybe it’s time we bring the church into our neighborhoods. Let’s remember that the church is not a building. The church is us! Church isn’t over when we are dismissed from worship each Sunday. We are sent out as the church to serve the Lord by loving our neighbors and sharing the good news in word and deed.
Yes, it’s important to keep our story as Lutherans alive and live out the best of our Lutheran tradition. But, would it be wrong for us to ask the Spirit to give us new dreams and a vibrant future? Would you be willing to ask God to lead us on this exciting adventure into our neighborhoods with new ways of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to our neighbors?
This is a time for learning.