“The church is not dying, it is merely relocating to the streets” – Rev. Traci Blackmon
The question of whether or not the church is dying is an interesting one, and I would answer yes and no. I attended a meeting of clergy and laity where the question of the death of the church was posed to a student preparing for ordained ministry. The question was something like how are you going to prevent the church from dying. I reject the premise of the and would say that perhaps the church as we know it today is dying but the Church of Jesus Christ will survive long after we are dust.
The church, like any social organization, needs to remake itself with each generation. The church of today looks very different from the church that existed in my parent’s day. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and a generation ago the Sunday Mass was in Latin. There was a societal shift, and the Mass was allowed to be said in the language of the people. Some hold this was a bad change while it opened up the mystery of the church to untold thousands of people.
I know we do not like to think of it in these terms, but the church is losing her relevance in today’s world only because she refuses to move with the times. I am not saying, or perhaps in one way I am, that the church needs to change theology. With that said I would say that the essential truths of the Christian faith should never change, but theology is evolving as we learn more about the language and the culture of the times that these things were written in. I refuse to believe that God stopped talking after the canon of Scripture was written, and we have been left on our own all of these years.
Cultural shifts require a change. The generation that is coming of age today has been brought up to question everything. They are not satisfied with answers such as “we have always done it that way” or “it is faith you just have to believe it.” These are educated young men and women in search of an authentic faith with genuine people and if the church is not going to be that for them they will look elsewhere.
Communication has also changed. Yes, there was a time when the church believed that radio and TV are works of the Devil. I will admit seeing how some so-called “Christian” preachers use this media has me wondering the same thing. People today use social media and text as a way of communication. It is here to stay, and we have to learn how to use it to spread the Gospel.
I know the argument; the internet is full of crap. Sure that might be true but consider this. There is a story in the one of the Gospels about being the salt, and if the salt loses its saltiness, we will perish. In the ancient world, the fuel most commonly used for cooking was manure, that’s tight animal waste. Manure was a cheap source of fuel for cooking as well as heat, but it did not burn very efficiently. Somehow it was discovered that if salt were rubbed on the dry fuel, it would burn not only longer but hotter; salt made the crap better and more useful.
We are called to get our hands dirty and to work to make the world a better place. We are the salt, and we need to mix with the crap so that we burn brighter, and our light will shine.
So, is the church dying? No, the church is not dying it is transforming. We have to discover new ways to reach people, we have to take Jesus out of the building and into the streets, as the quote above suggests, to meet people where they are. There will always be a place for brick a mortar Christianity but the way we practice our ministry will have to change.