Never the Same: A Letter to West Franklin

Never the Same: A Letter to West Franklin February 12, 2022
West Franklin Family,
I remember where I was when it hit me. Like, really hit me. Before Wednesday evening, I would have told you the new rules in college football have changed everything. But after reading an article about the ongoing saga at my beloved alma mater, it hit me. I was sitting on a bleacher while waiting for my daughter’s indoor soccer game to begin. It hit me. College football as I once knew it is dead. It will never be the same. Everything has changed. I know many of you don’t care about college football. I’m praying for you. If you do find yourself in this category, all you really need to know is that players can now be paid to play. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the gist. It doesn’t take a college football fanatic or rocket scientist to see that this reality changes everything. Money for players is now (legally) involved. College football as we once knew it is dead.
If you think about it, the way people think about church will never be the same either. COVID-19 sped up what we already knew to be true about lukewarm Christianity. The necessity of on-line church has now become the norm for far too many. It’s probably only a matter of time before churches will be taxed by the government. Many, if they can’t get a tax write-off, will not give as they once did. And the older generation who grew up committed to the tithe will eventually pass away. Church as we once knew will never be the same. Add to this the stark reality that in Tennessee, 70% of Southern Baptist Churches are declining or plateaued. Twenty churches will close their doors this year. Now consider this: 700 people move in to Middle Tennessee each week. They are moving from California, Chicago, New York City, Miami, and Atlanta. 1 out of 8 residents in Middle Tennessee was born outside the U.S.
Think about that: 20 churches will close their doors this year. Yet 700 people move to this area in a week. If you’re paying attention, the trend should be moving the other direction for churches.
Church as we once knew it will never be the same. And perhaps that’s a good thing. If something doesn’t change, it’s only going to get worse. We all know the definition of insanity.
The way we think about church growth should change. The way we think about our facilities should change. The way we think about church planting should change. The way we engage with our neighborhood should change. The way we think about reaching the lost should change. The way we think about Sunday School classes should change. The way we disciple and train and equip the next generation should change. Middle Tennessee sees 40,000 new residents per year. Most are not moving here looking for a church. The way we think about it should change. Church as we once knew it cannot stay the same.
Having said all this, let me offer you this plea. It’s a HUGE fear of mine. The thing that saddens me most about the changing landscape of college football is that players will no longer play for their school. They will play for who can get them the most money. The sticker on their helmet and the jersey on their back won’t matter. The heart of college football, I fear, is gone. The real passion behind college football is dead. Changes have been made. The changes ripped the zeal right out of the sport.
What does this have to do with church? I fear the same could happen to us. Perhaps it already has. With all the changes and adjustments and necessary transitions in thinking – we forget God. We stop worshipping God. We stop needing God. We stop enjoying God. We stop being with God.
Hear me. Change is necessary. Approaches must be evaluated. Uncomfortable changes must happen. But let’s not remove the heart out of it. More people is a good thing. God’s for people. But it cannot be ultimate. New approaches are critical. But they cannot be the goal. Methods have to adapt. But they cannot be what drives us. Changes simply cannot rip the zeal right out of church. The goal is God. Paul said God’s household is the church of the living God. It’s His. He’s alive in it. The purpose of it all is for us, the church, to reveal to a watching world what God is like and that He is, indeed, alive. And let’s not think for a second God is stressed out about all this. Here’s been here all along. It’s Him we seek and Him we worship.
Like it or not, college football as we once knew will never be the same. There’s not a whole lot I can do about it. And, like it or not, the landscape of this once Bible-belted area will never be the same. And, in contrast, there are things we can and should do about it. But let’s learn a lesson from the “powers of that be” in the college football world: DON’T LET ALL THE CHANGES REMOVE THE HEART FROM WHY WE EXIST. Church is about God. It’s from Him. It’s for Him. Let’s never-ever forget that the local church is the way the world understands what the Gospel is. And at it’s center is God.
West Franklin – let’s be diligent to think through, evaluate, and execute needful and necessary changes to the ever-changing surrounding landscape. But more than anything let’s pay attention and respond to God. Let’s worship Him. Let’s enjoy Him. Let’s trust Him. Let’s seek Him. Let’s be with Him. Let’s love Him. Let’s continuously be reminded of His love. This is about God. Always has been. Always will be.
If He’s willing, I will see you in the morning with my Bible open to John 10:1-15.
Because He Lives,
Pastor Matt
There’s A LOT happening in and around West Franklin. Be in the know by going here. Text “bulletin” to 623-623. And listen to the weekly podcast here.

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