Lectionary Reading: Psalm 17:1-9 (NRSV)
One of the great truths is that systems resist change.
I say this a lot.
I try to say it as a reminder to people who are dealing with large changes in their lives. I may also be saying it as a reminder to myself.
We are a culture in the midst of change. Change occurs faster than we can keep up with.
For example, the first iPhone was released just 12 years ago in 2007.
Now 81% of Americans own a smartphone.
So as we seek to keep up with the changes swirling all around us, we seek stability in our lives.
For many, they look to the church to be the stabilizing force that resists change.
However, we are seeing change come to the church from the outside. At a recent district meeting, Rev. Dr. Rockford Johnson, the Crossroads District Superintendent, identified five adaptive problems that the church is facing. Adaptive problems are different from technical problems in that we may not have the immediate expertise to deal with them because they are new and wide-reaching.
These adaptive problems are:
1) Digital Church - as people consume more online, how do we provide access to spiritual seekers and form meaningful relationships?
2) The Shifting Population Dynamics Regarding Age - the Baby Boomer generation is retiring (and dying). They are not being replaced by the next generations at the same rate. What does the church look like in the pews in 10 years?
3) Diversification of the Mission Field - Oklahoma is racially diverse. This hasn't always been the case - just ask Charles Barkley what his perception was of Oklahoma City a few years ago! Our United Methodist churches do not reflect our neighborhoods.
4) Growing Disinterest in Church - as I mentioned in my sermon on Sunday, society at large is more likely to view the church as obsolete rather than significant. Younger people are not returning to church to raise their children with the same numbers as they once did.
5) Civic and Cultural Divide - we are seeing a worldwide polarization taking place. We seem to be forcing people into a binary choice regarding politics today. This either/or mentality has bled into the church. I often regard the church as one of the last places where people of differing viewpoints gather voluntarily to spend time together and have relationships with one another. What happens to our country (and world) if churches begin to self-select along these same kinds of lines?
Whew! Are you tired yet?
The difficulty for congregations is that while we face all of these problems (which seem to be interrelated), we may not have the capacity to handle the adjustments we need to make.
When we are facing problems of our own (creating loss and anxiety for us), we have less capacity to engage in adaptive work. If you have lost a loved one and are grieving, your capacity is diminished. If you are dealing with family conflict, your capacity is diminished. If you are having difficulty at work or financial problems at home, your capacity is diminished. In facing all of this, Christians often look to the church for stability which is normal.
The problem for the church is when it makes an idol of this stability. We forget the call of God upon our lives to love those people who may even be rejecting us. We may cry out to God for help and God may remind us to look outside ourselves.
Sunday, we'll be wrestling with this idea from the Psalmist. We cry out to God to save us from our adversaries. How does this work from a Savior who picked up a cross?
I believe that our worship actually enhances our capacity for change. I hope you'll join us either in person in Guthrie or Edmond or digitally at a time of your choosing!
Photo by Nicolas Nova via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.