Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? - Genesis 18
Interesting scripture for a blog post, huh? Well, it's the first Bible reference Bruce Reyes-Chow - our guest speaker for the weekend - threw up on the overhead this morning and I love, love, love the choice.
His topic was "Leadership and the Future Church." The Genesis story about Sarah reminded me that, in many respects, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is an old lady who for the most part doesn't believe it's possible to grow her family. But - and this, as Rebekah would say, gives me chilly-bumps - "IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?"
How about this? Well, getting the average mainline church to move forward as a life-charged community may be one of the hardest things the Lord has run into in the past millennium or so. And I'm not limiting this observation to the Presbyterians. Remember, I'm partially "Methodish," have significant Baptist roots, hang out with all sorts of Episcopalians, Lutherans and Disciples of Christ, and have written newspaper profiles on pretty much every pastor with a pulse (and some don't!) within the radius of twenty miles.
The Church Jesus envisioned when he moved around the Holy Land with his faithful band of followers - men and women both - was a living organism. That kind of church evidences life through:
- Impact on the ambient environment,
- And adaptation via internal change... (Compilation of ideas from scientific definitions of "life")
Too many people think that the ideal church equals "Exactly what I remember growing up." The task, then, would be to attract people (just like them) to buy into their vision of church and strengthen resistance to change. That's not ministry so much as it is institutionalized nostalgia, and it amounts to an inevitable slow death.
Too bad so sad: I hate to disappoint, but Jesus did not live... and teach... and die... and then conquer death... in order to prop up a cultural time bubble that has more to do with what American looked like in the 1950's and 60's than God's radical promise of new and abundant life to EVERYONE who accepts that love.
There is no template for how church should look. Our congregation strives to be a loving, faithful community of disciples who gather together to worship God, to learn, to serve and to encourage one-another as we work out what following Jesus - day-by-day - looks like under the umbrella of our Presbyterian identity.
Back to the scripture: So back to Sarah and baby Isaac (Isaac means "laughter"). I honestly believe that, with God, anything is possible. And I truly believe we're just scratching the surface of what is possible here in Brandon. But God is not going to impose any future we don't have the faith or the courage to engage.
Peace - DEREK