What is Your Hope for the Church?
Christianity Today is celebrating a “rebranding,” which includes a new visual identity and the launch of a new ministry website, ChristianityToday.org. As a part of its celebration, it is asking people to respond to the question “What is my hope for the future of the Church”? Since I am a contributing editor to Leadership Journal, also published by Christianity Today Int’l, I was invited to write something in answer to the same question. To be honest, when I went on the website and started to read people’s hopes for the future of the Church, I got scared. Call me Mr. Sensitive, but after being a pastor for 40 years all I’ve heard have been people’s preferences for what they want the Church to be like, and these preferences are often hidden behind their hopes, dreams, and “suggestions.” I believe that many of these “suggestions” are based upon flawed thinking. The Church has so many shapes and sizes that it must have different expressions in order to fit into the context and culture where it is planted. In other words, one size does not fit all, which has been the beauty of the Church down through the ages. Thus it may be that we do not feel a fit with a particular church, but that does not mean there is anything wrong with that church. Through our preferences, however, we may be in reality trying to jack-hammer a certain local expression of the church into the shape that we want or according to the pattern of what we have or have not experienced in our last church. The other flaw in our thinking is that we often fail to measure what we want for the Church by God’s ultimate concern for the Church– after all it is His, is it not? Our preferences often lead us “astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3), and away from the simplicity of God’s mission for the Church. I have been a volunteer high school coach for many years. Every season, I take my players back to the basics of their sport or event. I do this not just for the sake of the newcomers, but also for the veterans who need to relearn some fundamental stuff they may have overlooked in their developing styles. I think every generation has to go back to the basics of what God wants for His Church, and then implement that according the style which best fits their context. Thus we need to fervently seek what God wants as we study the Word and as we do so in prayer. Alas it is last component of prayer that is sadly lacking in the Church, and may be the very reason why we have so many divergent hopes and dreams. Therefore, a praying Church is the future Church for which I hope.