Are You Surprised?

Are You Surprised?

by Rick Painter

You would probably not be surprised if I said the church and Christians as a group are not as respected as they were just a few decades ago.  There is no shortage of people declaring that the church and the Christian faith are dying.  Some are celebrating the demise.  Some are lamenting the situation.  Some are holding a sort of martyrdom and committing to go down with the ship to glorify God.  Still others are trying to discover how to “fix” the problem.  But, would it surprise you if I said Jesus actually said this would happen?  We are confused.  He is not.

Let me clearly say that Jesus’ church will never die.  It is a divine creation under divine protection.  Congregations and even denominations disappear, but His church will never die.  He said so. Repeatedly.  In fact, He said His church would be victorious, not defeated.

So what is going on in our culture? 
How do we respond?

Do we simply accept the current state of the church in the United States as “God’s Will”?  NO!  Do we keep doing what we are doing and let God take care of the rest? Sorry, that is not biblical faith!!  Do we need to discover a new “secret” that will energize us or prove to the world who we are?  Nope.  We just need to take a fresh honest  look at where we are, what we are designed to be, and take steps of faith to bring what should be into the reality of what is.  No program, preacher, or “How to” writer can show us that, but God already has!

So what happened?  How did we lose our influence and impact in our communities?  Here is a hint: When did Jesus say we would get thrown out and walked on?  Answer:  Right after He told us that we are (not “might be”, “should be”, or “ought to be”) the salt of the earth.  It is who He created us to be.  (“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB).  We were created to carry out His activity!  That is why you were not swept away to Heaven the minute you accepted Jesus!   In other words, when we do not live up to our divine design, we get disrespected and declared useless by the community we were placed in!

Throughout American history, the church has impacted society by addressing needs in communities.  Virginia and New England Baptists pushed the Bill of Rights into the Constitution.  Churches played key roles in ending slavery and developing education, hospitals, and relief ministries.  Even Alcohol Anonymous started as a Christian ministry.  The church was the social center in most small communities and led the community in taking care of the community.

But over the years the church withdrew.  It surrendered responsibility.  When the government started food stamps in the 1960’s, many in the church seemed to utter a silent sigh of relief and stepped back into their buildings.  It was a slow creep inward.  To use the salt analogy-we climbed back into the salt shaker and focused on keeping the salt clean and the shaker full.  And now we are asking “what happened?”

Because our “divine design has not changed, we need to simply get out of the shaker and get back to the real work!  We need to regain the name “Christian” (more about that in a later blog) by rediscovering how He has designed us to change our community (not just get people into our churches)!  New LifeScape isn’t a program.  It is a movement.  Let’s shake things up!

***Rick is a former  youth minister, education minister, pastor, missionary, educator, and QMHP mental health worker.  He is one of the founders of NLS now the Pastoral Director.