When the calendar year is 2020 the temptation to talk about having a “clear vision” of the future for the church is real, at least for me. That might make for a cute tagline but the truth is, having a clear vision for the church in our current time will be challenging. Reality check. It is 2020 – not 1950, and living in a culture that is predominantly Christian no longer exists. Even more so, we need to stop sitting Shiva for those days as they aren’t coming back – ever. The days of your boss asking on Monday what your pastor preached about are gone. The days of children striving for perfect attendance in Sunday school more than they did public school are extinct. The days of the church being the hub of a family’s social life are as dead as disco.
And because our world has changed we cannot expect the way the church operated in the last half of the 20th century to work in the next half of the 21st. Doing the same thing over and over with no change in the results is the definition of insanity, yet we think and believe, “If only we could bring back this program or these events we’ll have all the volunteers and people we need to keep our church vibrant and strong.” But is that why we do what we do? To keep the institution of the church going strong? Shouldn’t our answer to why we do what we do be in line with what God’s vision and mission is in the world rather than simply what will get people in the pews or kids in choirs on Sunday?
Full disclosure: seminary didn’t prepare me for this either. I was trained to be a pastor for the church of Christendom, not the mission church of the first century. In order for me to lead as pastor I already know I’ll need to learn new skills and trust new and different partners along the way. Even more so, I’ll likely need to leave behind some of the tools of the trade I was trained to use as they will no longer be useful. And so in 2020 I’ll be spending time discovering what the new world the church is facing really looks like rather than pining for the one that baptized me so I can be prepared to lead with you into the 21st century.
I can already hear the groans. “That sounds a lot like a lot of change is heading our way, Pastor Wayne, and you know how we feel about change!” I agree. But maybe if instead of thinking of it as change we think of it as an adventure we are on for the sake of the gospel and becoming what God needs the church, at least our church, to be might make it – well – exhilarating. When was the last time you were on an adventure? As a child? On a vacation? Were there challenges along the way? I’ll bet. But was it exciting in the course of it? I’ll bet that’s true as well.
2020 is a good year to begin talking about vision, God’s preferred vision for how the church can be a part of fulfilling God’s mission in the world – a world that is vastly different from the one of only a few decades ago. I invite you to join me in this adventure and if you have any ideas or insights or simply want to talk about it I’m always up for cup of coffee. Until then may you see clearly in this new year and beyond.