Change Gonna Come

Some folks seem to be reeling from some recent revelations:

1– ‘white majority’ is no longer a thing because of a) growing demographics of multi-ethnic groups and b) philosophical differences, even among people of the same race.

2– women can do stuff. it’s a thing.

3– there is no one truth, and there are no easy answers. If a country is divided literally in half, we have to acknowledge that we are all a little bit right, and we are all a little bit wrong. Our best hope is to engage in some discourse and hope to take the best of all worlds with us as we move forward.

This is what the mainstream media says we learned from the election. Let me take just a moment to say… ahem… The Church has known this for years! At least, some churches… In any case, many of us have been pointing out for years that status-quo, ‘as-we’ve-always-done-it’ approaches to congregational life no longer work. And we attribute the changes in culture to many of the same elements that seemed to shock the country in this election cycle: our demographics are shifting, people’s priorities are changing, and places where people all look exactly the same do not much exist anymore. And the ones that do are dying.

I’m not heading into another political discussion. I’m just pointing out that, what the media says we’ve learned this year, some of us have been trying (perhaps too gently) to point out for a decade.

And yet, we are still learning what these changes mean in practice. How do we adapt so that the ‘church’ as we knew/know it can continue to function in a shifting world?

My church is among those seeking a way in the forest; and trying to ‘write the book,’ as it were, on what the post-post-modern church looks like. But a few things we do know: less meetings, more doing stuff; less rules, more spiritual growth; less spending, more giving; less building and property, more being out in homes, neighborhoods, cities, the world in general;

And–this one is super important–less reaching out to the same people we’ve always known and always had…more opening the doors to people who might make us nervous, folks who might disagree with us, families who don’t fit in the box, and demographics that will challenge and transform us from within.

These revelations of inevitable progress have gotten a lot of politicians run off the stage. At the same time, we see more and more pastors getting run out of town as a result of these difficult conversations. Churches that have no interest in ‘being transformed’ seem bent on shooting the messenger. I’m increasingly aware of how many of my clergy friends are involved in games of ‘kick the pastor.’ The more they try to shine a light on the shifts happening in their community, and the ways the church needs to reinvent itself in order to share the good news, the more tightly people cling to establishment, and well…It’s not pretty.

It’s time to change the story. Many will say this means compromising values, ‘selling out’ on sensitive issues, and even say that we think we know more than God. On the contrary, letting go of our dying models and our worn out arguments will open us up to a spirit of renewal. It will sharpen our focus on what matters–in Christian practice, and civilization in general–and make us, maybe, a little less afraid of what we see happening on the horizon. There’s something to be said for changing ahead of the need.

Maybe the gov’ment didn’t get the message until Tuesday, but some of us sure are trying to preserve that which gives life–in Christianity, and elsewhere–and let go the rest. We seek the way of Jesus–the one who brought good news to a changing world, and asked us to do the same–and you know, the rest is just details. We sure don’t have it all figured out, we know we aren’t ‘right’ about everything…but man, it does feel good to know that the Church, at least in some small part, is finally getting ahead of the curve on some things.

I pray for my friends who are serving in places where folks don’t want to read the memo. I pray for small towns that have not found a way to welcome people of color, and large cities where the economic gap still runs along the same lines as race. I pray for politicians whose constituents will demand that they fight the same old battles about who can love whom, even if the rest of us have moved on. I pray we all find the grace to know that it’s not all figured out yet…but that the more people we have at the table, the less we look like a house divided, and the more we look like the kingdom of God.

It’s been a long time coming, but i know…

About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://seekthesacred.wordpress.com seekthesacred

    Claiming we know the mind of God is simple idolatry. We must open our hearts and minds to all who seek, to find a new way forward. I always go back the the scripture where the disciples ask Christ to stop healing, because those folks weren’t with them. Christ said if they are not against me, they are with me. Let us pray for a way ahead that embraces the wideness in God’s mercy, and creates an openness that includes all who seek God.


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