Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Presbyterian Church Is Losing Members - So What?

There are people today who are in a state of panic! 

Me?  I think we are living in the most exciting time in Christianity since the Protestant Reformation.

Others are in panic because the Presbyterian Church (USA) is losing members!  The same is true for any other denomination, but since I’m Presbyterian, this is what concerns me most J

Me?  I’m excited.  I think God is doing something new, and just because I don’t have a clue what God is doing doesn’t bother me a bit.  Most of the time I have no idea what God is doing – so I’m used to it.  I just trust that he knows something I don’t, which I don’t think is that hard.

So while others are in fear and anxiety, I say, “so what?”  It is not that I don’t care about the Presbyterian Church, USA.  I love this church.  I am fiercely loyal to my church.  I am sinfully proud to be part of this church.  Do I care that it might not exist when my great great grandson is born?  No, not really.

You remember that list of churches in the Book of Revelation – there were seven of them and there were letters sent to each of the angels of those churches. 

Those churches don’t exist in the 21st century.  So what?

That church that met in the home of Aquila and Prisca – we don’t even know where the house was located. 

All those other churches in the New Testament?  Gone. 

BUT – the church survived. 

Of course it did, Jesus built the church upon a rock and told us the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

We’ve been around for 2,000 years, and we are probably young compared to what we will be when “earth’s last picture is painted, and all the tubes are twisted and dried.”

The United States of America?  Founded in 1776.

ATT&T?  Founded in 1885.

IBM?  Founded in 1911.

Google?  1998.                           

The church?  We’ve been here for 2000 years and we will be around a lot longer, because Christ built the church on a rock and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Not to say that the church will be the same.  It won’t be.  Thank God I don’t have to sit in one of those uncomfortable frontier pews from 1801 listening to some preacher ramble on without Power Point for 45 minutes.  Yes, I do like those old hymns, but please give me a little bit of Praise Music that feels like that old time Rock and Roll, the music that soothes my soul.

The church is the most adaptive organization of all history.                                                                        
Some organizations are like that – take IBM.  International Business Machines built typewriters.   

We got one in our church office – I’m not even sure it works, but we’ve found it is good for piling stuff on top of it.  IBM went from typewriters to computers.  Why, because they weren’t in the business of making typewriters, but business machines.

Or take AT&T.  The American TELEGRAPH and Telephone?  Does anyone other than Boy Scouts use Morse Code?  Are there any operating telegraph machines?  Maybe.  But my point is that AT&T wasn’t in the telegraph business, but the communication business.

Then there is Kodak.  If you bought their stock in 1997, it’s worth 96% of what you paid for it.  They made film and equipment and chemicals I used to use in a dark room.  If you don’t know what those things are, my point is made.

Blockbuster?  Back in ancient times one had to rent a movie by going to a store, looking to see if they had the video TAPE you needed, you paid for it and had it for a day or two.  Then you had to return it.  Yes, they did adapt to DVD.  But who rents DVDs today?  One MIGHT go to an automated machine at the local CVS or Walgreens, but most of us watch the movies over the Internet or other service that goes straight into our phones or TVs. 

But the church?  We adapt. We change.

“Reformed and always reforming” would make a great motto for our church.  Oh wait – that is the motto of our church. 

Whither the Presbyterian Church, USA?  Of course.  Because God is at work, not at rest.  We can either journey with him, or crawl into the grave and think about how things used to be. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Does the Church Need a Church Building?

In Ezra 3, ministers wore vestments.  In the Temple, there were candles.  In the Psalms, there were instruments of music and great choirs.  In the book of Acts, there was an election for a new Apostle – go Mathias! 

One thing I don’t find is real estate?

OK, there was that Temple thing going on, but other than that, churches met where two or three were gathered.  They met in homes.  They didn’t go out and buy property.

Every church I have served has had property, and it has been nice property.  At Chapel by the Sea I got to preach in a boat.  That was cool.  At Good Shepherd we had an awesome youth building.  Here at Grace Covenant, we got the gym!  There is something about our culture that makes churches more comfortable having a PLACE to call home.  It’s not a bad thing, not at all.

However, for those churches meeting in store fronts that have grown large enough to start looking for property, I want to say, “Don’t do it!” 

Mortgage.  Repairs.  Dirty carpet that has to be replaced!

As a pastor, much of my time has been spent on property issues.  Yes, there are advantages to owning property, but if you are a church that isn’t there yet, don’t go there.  Stay real estate free for as long as you can!