This post is part of an ongoing blog series on Pomomusings entitled “(Re)Imagining Christianity.” To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that must die so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?
I’m not in the Spiritual Vending Business (and neither are you)
After a parishioner’s funeral a few years ago, an elderly stranger approached me and said, “I like the way you pray. Who do I have to see to join this church? Because – at my age – I’m going to need a place for my own funeral one day.”
Hmm. On the one hand, new members are good. On the other hand, I’d rather be the church with two people trying to be disciples of Jesus than two hundred members who see me as a purveyor of spiritual goods. If the future church is going to transform the world in the name of Jesus, the Christian Church has got to stop being the place where people marry, have their babies baptized, and schedule family funerals. Church is not about entertaining us with impressive music. Church is not about giving people peculiar power – as in the ability to control where the flower arrangements go or what color the parlor will be painted. Church doesn’t exist to ensure that our Boy Scouts get their God and Faith Badge or our daughters have a venue for selling Girl Scout cookies.
I realize that taking on Girl Scout cookies might be fighting words, but the institution part of Christianity has got to let go everything but making disciples. Who cares if we have Tiffany windows if we don’t love our neighbors? What difference does it make if we have a pipe organ if we don’t recognize brokenness in our community?
We have got to relinquish the notion that church offers “services” and reclaim the Biblical teaching that the church is a community that prays together, shares resources with each other, and serves those in need. Please don’t ask me to run a wedding chapel for strangers or lead a Mission trip with the youth so that your high school junior has a service project to add to her college application.
What I’d love to do, though, is walk alongside a couple discerning whether or not they are called to marry each other and create their own little church together (in the words of Rahner.) What I crave is traveling with people to serve neighbors near and far and then grapple with what it means to serve.
People want community and purpose. It’s not about personal entitlement. It’s about making the earth look a little more like heaven.
Jan Edmiston: Jan is the Interim Associate Executive Presbytery for Ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago after serving congregations in Schaghticoke, NY and Alexandria, VA. She blogs at A Church for Starving Artists and has been part of the Presbymergent conversation. She’s originally from Chapel Hill, NC..