The need to change almost always starts with a threat. Someone can tell you how great the future will be after some change happens but human beings will inevitably choose to stay in the status quo unless there is some threat or danger or bad experience.
This is especially true when it comes to changes relating to our spiritual life and church. “Many of us get caught in surface living or in the pressures of the practical. We want to escape the costly strangeness of this voyage within.” [Michael Paul Gallagher in Faith Maps] The promises of Jesus can easily be overlooked by Christians, who feel the daily pressure of living in a complex modern society. We are losing our sense of being a unique people with a vital calling: to announce the Good News that the world is filled with God’s grace. It seems unlikely and even absurd that we are God’s sons and daughters who are meant to transform the world. Most of us don’t even notice that we are losing something crucial to living; the surrounding secular culture seems quite normal to us and church seems like something that must be fit into our everyday life.
I want to raise the possibility that Christians and local churches face a ‘burning platform.’ The burning platform metaphor originated when the oil drilling platform Piper Alpha in the North Sea caught fire. A worker was trapped by the fire on the edge of the platform. Rather than certain death in the fire, he chose probable death by jumping 100 feet into the freezing sea. He had to risk change because he was faced with a status quo that was completely untenable. We like the worker on the burning oil rig can’t stay where we are because the threat to our life as Christians is too great.
I will quote several authors, from among many, who sense that there is something profoundly wrong with church in general.
- “[We live in] a culture in which central features of the Christian story are unknown and churches are alien institutions whose rhythms do not normally impinge on most members of society.” Stuart Murray, Post-Christendom
- “Everywhere in the Western world the Church has suffered a massive loss of ground. It is seldom at the centre of people’s lives. In today’s complexity it is just one of many potential sources of meaning, and perhaps not a very attractive one at that. For huge numbers of the younger generation what the church offers – in terms of teaching, or worship, or spiritual image – rings strange, and sometimes even hollow and dishonest. ” Michael Paul Gallagher in Faith Maps
- “. . . Traditional churches are emptying, their congregations are graying, the eyes of their fewer and fewer young people are glazing over, and turning elsewhere. ” Scott Cowdell, God’s Next Big Thing“
- “If we are the church, then the church is a fellowship of those who seek journey and lose their way, of the helpless, the anguished and the suffering, of sinners and pilgrims. If we are the church, then the church is a sinful and pilgrim church, and there can be no question of idealizing it.” Gerald A Arbuckle, Refounding the Church
The first task of Christians in every local church is to read the signs of our times, both in the world and in their own church. Are these authors reflecting the true state of the church? What do you discern? Do you sense an urgency to act and transform yourself and your local church?
Discussing the need to change with other people in your local church, and learning together with the Pastor how to proceed is a critical task which every Christian needs to prayerfully consider and then undertake.
© 2011 James Harlow Brown, All rights reserved.