Every time church gathers there is an offer of hospitality. A diversity of people worships together, learns and grows together, and becomes family together. In fact, hospitality is a lifestyle. As a congregation, we have the opportunity to offer a home and family to people who, at that moment and for all practical purposes, are looking for a place to belong. Every gracious host or hostess makes the offer “Make yourself at home.”
Our world and our culture are both going through massive changes. These changes are increasing in both speed and complexity. They are shaping our values in regard to how we define family, faith, knowledge, and science. These changes are all too ready to leave the church behind as some quaint spiritual artifact. In such an arena of competing values and counter-Christian views, what options do we have as individual believers or as churches in our communities?
It was lunchtime. Linda had bought a hamburger in a crowded McDonalds, surrounded by strangers. She and her husband had moved to California a month earlier because of his new job and Linda was lonely. Standing alone in McDonalds made her feel more isolated. No one’s eyes met, which reminded her of her own “disconnectedness.” As she stood holding her tray, no one offered to share a table; so she waited for an empty one and finally sat down, brooding silently over her situation.
When we seek deep spiritual change in our lives, there is always God’s invitation to walk by faith, not by sight. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus say’s, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Deep spiritual change is what is needed to lead the church today into the future. So, why do so many of us hesitate to embrace deep spiritual change?
Are you and your church dying a slow death? Dick Wills, in Waking To God’s Dream, sees only two options for the church today: deep spiritual change or slow death. He writes, “One might think that if a church has indigenous worship, small groups, and empowerment of the laity, it will certainly be a vital community of faith. But there is a problem. The fundamental need is for the pastor to be a “spiritual leader.”¹
Henri Nouwen, in his book The Genesee Diary, wrote, “He who thinks that he is finished is finished. How true. Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way. Those who think they have reached their goal, have missed it. Those who think they are saints; are demons.”
As I have reflected upon Nouwen’s words, I have come to the conclusion that God is not finished with any of us. For you and me to be the people God intends for us to be, we must come to the place in our lives where we admit we are unfinished.
May I state the obvious? Our culture is going through some massive changes. These changes are shaping our values in regard to how we define family, live our faith, gain knowledge, and understand science. Because these changes are complex and coming at such speed, the church is being left behind as a quaint spiritual artifact and dusty theological antique. In such an open arena of competing values and counter-Christian views, what options are open to us as individuals or our local congregations in regard to making a missional impact in our communities and the world?
I celebrate a birthday this week (Editor’s note: Tim’s birthday is today, April 6). As I often do, I took an assessment of my life and ministry. Although I am generally pleased with my life, I decided I must be more focused if I am to make the difference in the world I believe God created me to make. I realized that I have a few years of active ministry left in and through the United Methodist Church (10 years before I have to retire). I believe I must be more clearly focused if I am to make that difference.
Look at the activity of your life and consider all the things you do or do not do. Consider all the things you feel you should do or should not do. Ask yourself, “Of all of these, what really matters? What truly makes a difference in who I am or who I am becoming?
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the disciples saw themselves as the “evidence” of the resurrection. They started a movement that continues over 2000 years later. Their words, actions, and interactions with people were evidence the resurrection was real, powerful, and hope-filled. Today, their witness is animated through your life.
How can your life be evidence of the resurrection?
Yes, it is possible!