I hope and pray all is well with you, your families and all GOD has entrusted to you. I am sure you have noticed but we find ourselves in the midst of amazing change! Some of those changes over the last 25 years or so most of us have embraced â€“ cellular phones, home computers, the internet, social media while there are still a few holdouts who refuse to touch any of those four I have just mentioned, my mother for one. And as many of you can testify, I havenâ€™t fully embraced social media either and may never embrace social media.
Technology isnâ€™t the only change we are facing. If you are old enough to remember 1965 you may remember that all churches were chock full of people and the Church seemed to still set the tone for the community around her. 1965 is considered by many who look at all the research as the high point for the Mainline Protestant Churches in the United States. Most of us (by now really all denominations across the board) have been caught in a steady decline ever since which is for most of my life and if you are a member of the generations X, Millenial (Y) and Z the church has been in decline your entire lives.
I am troubled by this continuing decline. I donâ€™t remember exact numbers but do know that when I entered the ordained ministry in the Florida Annual Conference that we had many more than 8oo churches here. Now, almost twenty years later we are fast approaching 650 churches in our conference with more than two hundred of those not showing a baptism, a new member or a profession of faith in the last three years which puts them and all of us really on thin ice. As I look around I also see other signs. I was thrilled to participate in a marriage ceremony in September at our sanctuary with a young couple who grew up in our church. It had been over three years since I had last had that privilege within our sanctuary. Curious, I checked other churches I am familiar with and found that the number of weddings they host has also plummeted over the last several years. It seems now that many prefer getting married at some exotic locale other than the local church.
I even discovered in a recent conversation with a friend who is a funeral director that more and more often they are encountering folks who have no standing relationship with a church, want no standing relationship with a church and absolutely do not want a minister leading the service for their loved one which is causing many directors to totally rethink how they do memorial services. Change is indeed everywhere!
What do we do in the midst of such change? Do we bunker down and hide? Or do we remember Godâ€™s purpose for us â€“ to make disciples of all nations. Often times we inadvertently or perhaps purposely hang on to our preferences until the bitter end until the last one remaining turns out the lights but perhaps we are called to seek Godâ€™s purpose and lay our own preferences aside. Regardless of how much everything changes, human beings still need relationships. We, as Godâ€™s people, are called to build relationships; first, ongoing emphasis on our own relationships with God by using our spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, service, fellowship, fasting, etc. and second, with those around us. The next three months are perfect times for us to build relationships with folks in our lives and bring them with us to church. The Church contains the hope for the world in Jesus Christ. Everyone needs hope and we have the pure, unadulterated hope of Jesus Christ that never fades or perishes. May GOD richly bless you as you richly bless all those around you by living, loving and leading like Jesus in these exciting times we find ourselves!