Recently I had occasion to visit the church I attended as a new member when I was in high school. Everything seemed eerily familiar. I do think they had painted the inside of the building (although they hadn’t changed the color). The piano was in tune, and I reflected that that hadn’t always been the case. A scant new generation of kids were sitting in the back corner on the same pews where I once sat. The word nostalgia came strikingly to mind.
Another immediate observation was that the congregation was about the same size as when I had been attending. True, a new church had been planted half an hour away but no mention was made of it during the service, and I had the distinct impression that it was not of major significance to the parent church…maybe even competition. The pastor was younger than the one I had known, but not much. I confess I spent much of the service making comparisons and that I was something less than inspired.
Oh, one more observation – the music. Although I don’t have any old church bulletins so I could verify this, it felt to me like they were singing the very same songs they were singing when I left half a century before.
I thought of the world in which that neighborhood church exists and how much that world has changed. Its values, its communication, its vocabulary, its music. I asked myself, Is this congregation speaking the language of the people to whom it should be ministering? What painful reshaping of its vision have they recently forged? Have the needs of the community significantly altered the menu the church advertises?
Be assured I am not suggesting we alter the basics of our faith. This is not a time to meld into the theological landscape until we become simply one among the many. This is not about our message; this is about the wrapping. This is about presenting our unique biblical perspective in terms that are fresh and winsome and exhilarating.
The Great Commandment and the Great Commission must ever be the theme of our song. But a song is not more sacred because it was written in 1664. Men and women need to know that the God of eternity still wants to speak to their generation. A church that is married to maintenance will not meet the needs of today’s pain. Our neighbors deserve the opportunity to be introduced to the God who bends down to hear them pray and who is eager to be everything they need Him to be. Today.
By Don Jacobsen