This is another of those blogs I have started over a number of times. I have spent the week and part of last week reading about church membership, what works and what doesn’t. One thing I discovered from my point of view is a modern-day church quandary. I think that part of the problems of todays’ shrinking membership is because of the fixation on XYZ. Great article by WJSchroer got my attention, very informative and interesting. As I usually do please refer to the link at the end of the blog, good read, seven different generations beginning from 1912 to 2012. My first question, is this a generational thing? Whenever you go searching you will always find things that conflict or muddy the waters so to speak. Now each one of these generations saw a change in direction, expanding or limiting their role in society and changing doing church as we used to. I wondered how involved as a church are we into this generational thing. When we add demographics, PC and local culture the church is hard pressed to find a message that fits its immediate environment without offending someone. Because we are so intent on putting a label on people, placing them conveniently in a box, their humanness becomes secondary to the statistical information many organizations look to for guidance. A good example of this practice can be seen in an article by Jeremy Steele in the United Methodist Communications publication. The article specifically written to a specific population of the church also has a host of turn offs that could put off other generations as well. This is a well written article, informative and except for a few points could be speaking to any of us. Go to the link at the end of the blog. At this point I would add minimizing our humanness to a statistic as a problem for the church.
So what has happened to make this church thing so difficult? People are different and their concept of church does vary as to its importance and place in their lives. The early church was less complicated but far more challenging. I never really considered the fact that not only do we label people but it seems that we carry that habit over to our church communities. Here are a few of those labels. There is the Institutional Church, the House Church, which really took off in the 70’s and continues even today. Of course we have the Main Line Denominations, followed by the rise of the independent Charismatic churches that have grown in such large numbers. What did the early church worship services look like? Since the first Christian community in Jerusalem was almost exclusively Jewish, it accepted the Old Testament as the Word of God and continued to worship in the Synagogue with the Jews. What distinguished the early Christians from the Jews was their belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that salvation was found only in Him. It is within these largely Jewish–Christian Synagogues that the order of worship began to change. They did for a while continue to worship in that Jewish order of worship of Scripture, prayer, the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, later adding the Lord’s Supper (cf. Acts 2:42, 46) and prayers in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 4:24-30). The Christians gathered daily for prayer, fellowship, preaching, and teaching (cf. Acts 2:46; 5:42), They did change from the Jewish Sabbath to the first day of the week almost from the beginning, because it was the day of resurrection. There is a lot of history here and to me while it helps to bring into perspective the churches’ struggle over time with the why, way and how to do church it can become confusing. I take away from the article “WORSHIP IN THE EARLY CHURCH” by Dr. D. W. Ekstrand that the Synagogue was still in power as a place of worship. Dr. Ekstrand notes:
“The New Testament refers to it fifty-five times. Our Lord taught in the synagogues of Nazareth and Capernaum; Paul preached in the synagogues of Damascas, Salamis of Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus.”
There is so much here that I believe I will return to the subject of the early church next week. So far my thoughts are moving toward a rejection of the generational, statistical and PC approach to reaching out to people. I am becoming more scripture conscious and embracing the core values of the faith and not being driven by societal and culture changes. How do we do this in a world that wants to know “what’s in it for me”? Don’t mean to leave you hanging, hoping you will ask yourself, if X,Y, and Z are a bit to simple?
Hope you come back next week…Life is Good