Phyllis Tickle and others have described a great emergence of new faith happening in our time. For those of you not paying attention to this sort of thing: think a church shake up akin to the Great Reformation that birthed Protestant Christianity.
Here’s my nut shelf version of that history: one expression of Christ’s message; bad. Multiple messages work better. All the power in hands of the clergy; bad. Instead give the people a chance. (Enter, Martin Luther.) And, now, enter the new emergence and the rise of Spirituality, the Nones, and all the rest.
Here’s my problem with all of Tickle’s critique: it leaves you hanging. Something needs to be done, but, history will tell us what that needed to be.
And, now, the neighborhood speaks, and says, you Christians aren’t living up to what you say. Because, this to my mind, is what is happening now, given our hyper connected, inter connected, and always aware world. The warts that used to be hidden behind church walls are now on full view for all to see.
Warts in this case being code for: hypocrisy, clergy sex abuse, shame, all manner of sin, and beyond basic ignorance. Not to get all cynical here, but if you ask someone why they don’t go to church, they likely have a pretty good reason.
So, from where does our help come?
Here’s my idea: our neighbors.
I believe that it will be the love of our neighbors, both towards them, and from them that, will set the church back on its hopeful, cheerful, joyful, God inspired path.
If you read enough “church success stories” you will discover, while it might be some awesome new programing or inspired leadership, the real truth comes down to neighbors taking charge of these old God outposts, these local congregations, and making new meaning for them.
Our neighbors, both local, and not so local, already know what they need to find our collective message hopeful and inspiring. I don’t for one minute believe that God is currently absent from their lives.
They are looking for Good News.
Here’s my message, my thought, trust that if we let our neighbors love us, not as we in church love ourselves, but as God does, then the world will be forever changed.
Can I get a witness?