It is no secret that we in 21st century America are living through a time of extreme upheaval. To point this out now borders on extreme banality. Yet as a quick example of what I am talking about consider a recent study:
Millennials[*] are less religiously affiliated than ever before. According to the 2012 Pew Research Center report, “Nones on the Rise,” nearly one in three do not belong to a faith community and of those, only 10% are looking for one. Though many millennials are atheists or agnostics, the majority are less able to articulate their sense of spirituality, with many falling back on the label ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’. The General Social Survey of 2014 shows that the disaffiliation trend is only growing.[†]
If one still doubts that the American cultural landscape is shifting immediately before our eyes and directly under our feet, one only need to watch any of the four recent Republican Presidential debates, all of which are easily available on line. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches (in his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics) that prudence requires right desire, and yet the presumptive presidential frontrunner of the Republican party today uses words in public speech which I would discipline either of my daughters for using. Chaos is ensuing.
In the midst of these cataclysmic shifts, what of the local Body of Christ? Is she simply another item in a long list of “institutions” which will have crumbled and disintegrated 100 years from now? Not according to Scripture: “for the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
Not, in addition, to what we are seeing at Christ Church in Tyler, Texas. For here, we find a community of believers that is straining and pushing, prudentially, into the future. I want very simply to list several dimensions in which Christ Church is adapting with the times (not simply like a thermometer, but more closely akin to a thermostat):
- Evangelism & Newcomer Ministry: we are removing barriers for folks visiting our church.
- Worship: we are drawing & “wooing” people into the richness of our sacramental tradition.
- The Brotherhood of Saint Andrew: we will infuse it with a small army of new, excited men.
- A Christ Church App: we will soon launch a platform for “Christ Church Global”[‡] to communicate more efficiently.
- The Christ Church South Altar Guild: we are raising up and training leaders to perform this crucial ministry, in conjunction with our Altar Guild who serves our downtown community.
- Forming an Executing Committee and broad-based Launch Team for Christ Church South: as we “ramp up” to Opening Sunday, we will sow the seeds and position ourselves wisely in the community in all sorts of ways.
When it comes to church, it is no longer true that “if you build it they will come.” However, it will always be true that human beings (who are spiritual by nature) will be drawn irresistibly into the love of Christ when it is embodied by a healthy, sacrificial community of Jesus.
Anyone remember the original “creation mandate” given to the Man and the Woman in the Garden of Eden? “Fill the earth and take dominion of it.” This is what we are doing here at Christ Church, Tyler Texas. We are not simply lunging into the future. Humbly and by the grace of God, we are co-creating it.
[*]Roughly defined, a millennial is one who was between the ages of 18 and 34 in the year 2015.
[†] This study can be found here: https://caspertk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/how-we-gather.pdf
[‡] My new term for Christ Church Downtown plus Christ Church South.