I attended the Next Church conference in Dallas this week and, I have to admit, I am just whelmed … Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed. Worship was well crafted, musicians good, preachers excellent … but I felt a kind of “status quo” in the room. The speakers we heard said some very good things … They were knowledgable, they got to the point, they talked about our current situation in the PC(USA) with honesty and sincerity, and they spoke about a hope for the future … For all of which, I am grateful. It’s just that, well, I think I was hoping for a little more “next” and not so much “now”.
Maybe that’s what they are doing today on Day 2, as I fly home. Unfortunately, due to flight schedules, I had to leave the conference early … today’s agenda did include getting together in regional groups and talking about next steps.
I am grateful for the conversation we had … There was talk about what’s needed for the future church … We need to plant new faith communities; we need to embrace an authentic multi-culturalism; we need to make room for innovative ideas and try new things, even if they don’t succeed as we had hoped; we need to be a church for the younger generation. I agree with all of that wholeheartedly!
I guess what irks me is that even in talking about the Next Church, we’re using old church paradigms … We talk about getting people to come to church, when, I’m convinced, we really need to encourage our church to go to the people. We talk about developing new and innovative programs, when, it’s more important to develop meaningful spiritual relationships with people outside of our current congregational structures. We talk about planting new faith communities, instead of training and deploying members and elders into their own communities and workplaces as missionaries. We talk about integrating faith and service, which I agree is essential, but we also need to talk about the gospel … What about the good news of Jesus Christ is so essential to our neighbors, our communities, our nation, that we cannot bear to live without? And how do we best share THAT with our children and grand kids, if not our friends, neighbors and co-workers?
The truth is that the next church is not survival or even revival of the old church; it is transformation, reformation, resurrection, and it starts in the hearts of each one of us. The next church is forming not in our programs, or in our pews, but in our lives … Each one of us.
On a personal note … I loved seeing so many of my friends and colleagues from around the country … particularly those from Texas … and especially after spending the ten days before caring for my parents who were both hospitalized in Austin. The time spent with my good friends in
Dallas was both spiritually healing and emotionally renewing for me personally. I thank God for that.