I’m in an exciting time in my life, the more I think about it.
Heck, we all are.
But personally, I’m in a time when I’ve left the church I called home for 9 and a half years, and I’m in the process of finding a new church in the city I live in now. I get the pleasure of trying out a bunch of different churches – something I’ve never done. So far, I’ve only tried a really small, young Cavalry Chapel church plant and a slightly older church plant (I believe they’re Baptist) called Center Point.
It’s cool because I’ve never experienced a lot in church – I’ve been to a few churches a kid, but then when I was 15, I settled on the church I would be in for the majority of my church-going life. So my experience is largely somewhat Pentecostal – I’m spoiled by the preaching, by the worship, by the small groups; my experience is with a small building, a small church, a reasonably small budget, a small town, a certain demographic of people, etc.
I’m enjoying this process – I’m about to go to a Methodist church, a Presbyterian church, I may visit a liturgical Episcopalian service…
…and I realize that the process I now enjoy is hell for a lot of people.
I’ve done a little bit of reading and a little bit of thinking about this idea that we’re in a post-church society now. I think about the majority of my friends now – ones who have made their decision (for now) about Jesus, who’ve been to church, who’ve been burned, who think that Christianity is full of crap in that it lacks a lot of intellectual impetus and relevancy, who accuse the Church of long-term, systemic racism, sexism, and classism – and realize that we’re in a really interesting spot, just from the circle of people I know.
And I’m excited.
Hot dog, I’m excited.
Let’s start with a premise from Jesus Himself: in Matthew 16, Jesus is conversing with His disciples about His identity. He asks, “who do people say I am?” The disciples give their answer, and then Jesus asks, “but who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Jesus responds by saying, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-20.)
[note: I skipped a portion. Jesus said that Simon Bar-Jonah was Peter, and I’ve heard some say that the rock Jesus was referring to was Peter, but I opine that Jesus is talking about the rock of the revelation that Peter received from God that Jesus was the Christ.]
I’m excited because Jesus guaranteed the survival of the church, and we’ve seen this so far. Think about it: the church could have fallen apart after the crusades, which are – to this day – possibly the church’s biggest stain. Surely people who have such a grave misunderstanding of the purpose of their faith and such a sick desire to be “right” misrepresent Jesus and His mission, and lots of people use that as a big reason to not believe in Jesus.
But: the crusades (historically) are over, and the church of Jesus Christ still stands.
The church could have fallen apart with the advances of science and technology, which so many thought would be its undoing, since people of faith don’t think enough. We discovered the earth revolves around the sun; we found out the earth is round, not flat; we discovered all of the elements; we discovered atoms and cell structure; we discovered vaccines, etc. etc.
But science is flourishing and so is the church of Jesus Christ.
The church could have fallen apart after every major moral failure of every high-profile Christian – Jimmy Swaggart sleeping with prostitutes, Mark Driscoll spiritually abusing people in his church, Tim Lambesis (a Christian vocalist in a Christian band) hiring a hitman to kill his wife, countless other scandals and inconsistencies…
And the church still stands.
There are surely more and more failures of human beings and the church as an institution that I don’t even know about, and yet one thing is sure: the church still stands.
And it’s only getting “worse” in that we have a generation who are leaving the church more quickly than ever, who are less willing to get involved than ever, who see through Christianese and traditions, etc.
I’m excited because I think that this means God is going to show His sovereignty in a way that we haven’t seen before. Jesus said that His church wouldn’t be overcome – that the gates of hell (which, again, we could get into this more deeply, but I’ll go shorthand and say that He’s talking about every effort of the enemy to keep people from communing together and pursuing God together) won’t prevail against His church.
So we have a culture, a generation of young people who don’t want church as it is institutionally established – but who, I believe, want church more than ever. I think God is trimming a bunch of fat – the fat of production, the fat of big budgets, the fat of weak preaching, the fat of surface-level community, the fat of lazy thinking, the fat of cheap excuses, etc.
I think we’re coming to a time when the church addresses the deepest lying questions of humanity, and gets to the heart of the matter:
-why do we need a savior?
-where does morality come from?
-how’d the world come into existence?
-is evolution a thing?
-how can we say God is sovereign when evil exists?
-Am I not a “good” person?
And all of the other questions we have, all the reservations we hold towards Christianity. I don’t think it’s strictly intellectual or scientific, but I think there’s a lot of progress to be made there within the church.
Somehow, God is going to show His sovereignty over all of these things. I heard an interview with an ex-Christian-now-pastor who said, “I just thought, ‘if God is sovereign, He’s big enough for my questions.'” Well – that’s true. He is!
The flip side of that, however, is that we have to accept His answers. If we reject His answers, then that doesn’t automatically mean that He isn’t real or true – it means we have seen and heard His reality and chosen to reject it.
As the church, I believe it is our responsibility to deal with the messiness of life – pain, suffering, sin, hurt, hypocrisy, death, confusion, etc – all the while upholding the sovereignty of God. And I think we’re getting better at it. I’m excited about that.
But mostly I’m excited that I live in a generation that’s craving genuineness, truth, and reality – all of which I am confident God is, and He will be seen as genuine, true, and real if we uphold His goodness and His sovereignty in the way we preach, relate, and conduct our lives.