Fixture or Force
So I am still trying to wrap my head around what our world is right now. Social distancing, on-line learning, Zoom meetings and Facebook Live are now becoming a normal routine for the world we are in.
For example, today I was in a 5th grade online class where two amazing teachers were instructing students using video conferencing. It was amazing and strange and a little surreal. Even 5 years ago I would never have imagined this.
One of the teachers was imploring her students to journal daily saying folks you are living in the midst of history. In the stress of the day to day life, I had not thought of this but it is true. Of course while that is fascinating to consider, it also occurs that our reactions to these events of the day are also part of history. We as a church will be remembered for our love and kindness both now and in the days and months to come.
In my new routine of wandering from room to room in my house, I realized have books all over the place. I sit, read a few pages, get restless, and move to another room (and another book or rerun on TV.)
One book I have sitting around is by the late Rev. Frank Harrington. He was senior pastor of the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, which is one of the largest PCUSA churches in America. The book is entitled First comes Faith - Proclaiming the Gospel in the Church. The book’s copyright is 1998 and its words are prophetic.
It talks about folks leaving the church to become spiritual but no longer religious. It discusses a decline in membership due to the secularization of our world. And it describes young people who want authenticity in their spirituality and mission . It discusses the need for churches to change so they become homes of experience for people to be engaged in their faith not just help fund institutions that maintain the status quo.
In the book Rev. Harrington poses this question: “Is your church a fixture or a force?”
Websters says a fixture is a state of being in only one place. Many churches are like this even though charge is happening all around them.
To be a force requires movement. And movement by definition is change. A church that is a force is able to adapt and change in the midst of the challenges of the world. A world that even Rev. Harrington saw becoming increasingly a world of the unchurched.
It’s funny isn't it? When folks talk about individual “conversion,” or to say it in terms that make us reformed Presbyterian folks more comfortable, when folks are “made new in Christ,” we rejoice in the changed life. But the change of the status quo for us as individuals or our institutions is tougher to swallow.
Of course if I am sure of anything about the Corona virus, it is that our world will never be the same. It has been charged. And for us to be a faithful force we will need to change too.
The lessons we learn in this time can be used to make a difference in folks’ lives. Maybe it will mean we do Facebook Live even when we return to regular services. Maybe Youth group and Bible studies will happen on Zoom. I don't know for sure, but I do know we can either live in fear of this new world or we can walk in faith.
Of course walking is movement. And you don't move without change. So let’s look for ways we might change. Let’s look at how we might be about proclaiming the gospel in new and exciting ways. And let’s look at how we might change the world as we seek to help make the kingdom of God more of a reality on earth even as it is in heaven.
In the same book Harrington asks, “If your church ceased to exist would anyone miss it?”
I know that folks would miss it today. But as today’s caretakers of the faith, we must make sure we are able to answer that it would remain to be missed in this world that is changing right in front of us.
Tonight the session met on Zoom and decide to suspend services and church meetings for at least two more weeks. We will have online services posted.
Additionally, we will be conducting a drive thru food drive to help with our food ministry and allow the entire LaFayette community a way to contribute on the next two Sunday’s from 1-3pm outside the church. Many folks are desperate to help in some way and we think this is a creative way to do so. I will send a flyer tomorrow.
Finally please reach out if you need me for anything. Love you all. ~ Clay