Thursday, July 07, 2005

Troubles in Church, Part I -- the Solemn Assembly

“A friend of mine” has been checking out other churches this summer. He and his wife both really love the people at their church, miss their Sunday School class, and the children’s ministries are awesome. But some things have happened, since last October, which have really shaken the husband in particular. And so, they’ve spent some time looking at other churches. They’ve spent four Sundays in other churches so far this Summer.

People have asked, “Why are you leaving?” They’ve been hesitant to reply. But I can’t help writing about it, because, well, I’m not revealing their identity and I have his permission. You see, he wishes he would’ve known what he knows now, and if he had a forum to share his opinions, he would. Well, I’ve got that forum, so here goes.

One of the things that concerns him – makes him shy away from coming back and keeps he and his wife looking – is that there’s a generational division in their church. And what are they fighting over? Primarily, the type of worship service we’ll have. How common is this?

Well, as he tells it, it’s not really much of a fight. As already indicated, the children’s ministries are awesome, so they have a decent-size contingent of families with primary age children. The dominant class in the church is 60+ years old. Young singles, as well as folks in their 40s to mid-50s, have much smaller representation than they should.

Because the older generation makes up the largest part of the tithing base of the church, they’re getting their way. The services are much more “traditional” (if you’re not an evangelical, none of this will make sense to you). And that helps explain why the two aforementioned demographic groups are under-represented. And, it helps explain why the church is on a membership and morale decline.

He sincerely fears that the church is dying; though given its size, it will be a long death.

But this isn’t about traditional vs. whatever. There shouldn’t be a generation gap!

My friend elaborates, “Since the Fall of 2004, this church has gone through significant changes. We’ve lost our senior pastor and other members of our staff. We’re rudderless. I’ve heard from more than one member that it was God’s will – that He has something big planned – and that’s why the last nearly ten months have been so difficult.”

Well, I don't necessarily agree with the concept that, "God made these changes to Our Church." While His Will is intact, I don't believe God tempts. And I’m not omniscient, so it's possible this was what God had in mind, but it's also possible He's chastening the church. And in the end, it may be for the best -- particularly if this particular community of believers really does love Him. But there’s a real likelihood, in my opinion, that they're not in His will at the moment.

Trying times call for discretion – for Wisdom. Wisdom is personified in Scripture. Sophia, as Wisdom is called in the Old Testament, is that Spirit we now call the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is necessary. So too, is discretion and vision. The Holy Spirit stands ready to give these gifts to us, if only...

In a trying situation, such as this community of believers is going through, only a great deal of time in prayer, that includes fasting and repentance, will bring the Spirit of Wisdom necessary to solve the problems.

The Pilgrims and Puritans recognized trying times as signals that they needed to get right with God. Perhaps there was another cause for their problems, but they ALWAYS started there. My friend tells me that the interim pastor indicated that financial concerns required a delay in locating a new Pastor. But a new Pastor is not necessarily the remedy, and getting the financial house in order isn’t the first step needed either. A Solemn Assembly is needed here.

The Spirit of God speaks in a still quiet voice, and believers everywhere must stop being so busy that they cannot hear it. We live in a microwave, me-first era. Problems are created and solved in 23 minutes, with laughs to spare, in our modern fables (sitcoms). Sermons that run much longer than that draw the ire of congregants.

But if ever a particular sermon was needed for this hour, it can be found at this link. If your church is going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, like my friend’s church is, perhaps you’ll be electrified and edified by Spirit as you read this very important teaching.

And as for the generation gap? Well, this problem could be solved by that same Holy Spirit, convicting hearts. As Rick Warren says in the Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about me.” The younger generation must respect their elders. The older generation should answer the question, “Do I want this church to die with me, or am I willing to forgo my preferences to see this body reach the community for Jesus?” If both sides repented, miraculous solutions wouldn’t be far away.

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