I’ve referenced two recent articles in the DMN that have confirmed what some of us have sensed for a while. In his article “Southern Baptist Convention- Realities looming ahead of gathering”, Sam Hodges quoted SBC president Frank Page who said “that many of our churches are not connecting with the younger generation, and they’re certainly not connecting with our growing secular culture. Because of that, I fear many churches will die.” Christine Wicker’s article (link above) points out that half of the SBC’s 43,000 churches will have shut their doors by 2030 if current trends continue. It’s time for church leaders to change or die.
For a long time I’ve been a proponent for some radical shifts in our churches (not changes but seismic shifts). We tried “changes” during the “seeker-sensitive” years of the 90s. I believe our motives were pure (to create a church for the unchurched) and evangelism was at the core of our changes) but, in the end, all we got was a consumer-focused mindset that simply came into the church and asked, “What’s in it for me?” Ironically, we wondered, “Who said it was about you?” Jesus never offered a bait and switch message. The shift is to move from the attractional church (come and see) to the incarnational church (go and be). That was the Church Jesus envisioned all along.
It seems the problem is at the core of what we’ve been fighting for so long. We need to re-think the Gospel. No, it hasn’t changed; it’s just a lot bigger than we thought it was. We thought the Gospel was solely about getting people into heaven. Clearly it is, but it’s also about the broader forgiveness of Christ that sets us free from our sin and our selfish lives so we can serve others in His name. We thought the Kingdom of God was about some place “in the sweet by and by” instead of wherever Jesus reigns and rules in the hearts of His people as Lord. His Kingdom is coming but it’s bigger than we thought. We thought the Bible was about doctrine and truth to be argued instead of forgiveness and freedom that’s found in the One who is the Truth. The culture wars have been more a battle over grace than they have been a battle over truth. You can argue over truth with a radical Muslim all day long. It is grace that sets Christianity apart from the religions of the world.
I’ve quoted Rick Warren who said, “The Body of Christ has had its hands and feet amputated and all that’s left is a big mouth.” Still some argue that the answer is to simply continue on with the same message- just louder. The shift will come when the people of the church repent and decide to align everything they do with the mission of Jesus to restore and redeem our broken world. The shift will not come through an institution but a revolution. It will not be through a denomination but a movement. And as it comes, so will the Kingdom of God among us as we join Jesus who is already on the move. The Gospel is bigger than we think and it’s time to wake up and show the world.
I want to be among those who, with an ear towards heaven and a resolve to follow Jesus, are courageous enough to ask the hard questions and do whatever it takes to see His Kingdom come (regardless of the cost). Some of you saw another article this week that revealed many evangelical Christians (and Baptists) have forsaken critical truths (namely salvation through Christ alone). Much needs to change but one thing will never change: Jesus is Lord. A reformation is needed and it will come as God’s Spirit falls upon a prayer-soaked people, clinging to God, with a simple and uncluttered message: “Jesus is Lord.”