Friday, January 5, 2018

The future of Christianity is unclear. . .

A member of my parish handed me a Faith and Values opinion piece from a regional newspaper -- well, two of them, actually.  It was ostensibly about the Reformation and the boldness of Luther but it was more about the start contrast between the world of Luther's day and our own.  Of course, as we remember the 500th anniversary of the nail heard round the world by acknowledging that the world was very different, that our age is very secular, it appears that denominations are in decline (at least here and in Europe).  We can all agree about that.  But I cannot agree that the future of Christianity is unclear.  The future of the church structures around us may not be certain but the future of Christianity is not the same as the church and parachurch structures around it.  As I have often said, Lutheranism will survive even if Lutheran churches do not.  That the nature of the catholic faith.

In the article, the statement is made If Christians today can show the same courage as Martin Luther in getting this message to a hurting world, then Christianity will always have a future and a purpose.  Uhhhhh, no.  There is no If.  Jesus did not say "if the Church is faithful and has bold and courageous leaders and an ambitious program" then the gates of hell will not prevail.  Jesus did not make His statement conditional on what we Christians did or did not do.  I am NOT at all justifying a laissez faire attitude about the work of the Kingdom or in any way saying that nothing we do is of any effect (or what we don't do).  What I am saying is that to hinge the Church to the people of God and their leaders getting their acts together and rising up above the fray to do what generations before have not is to admit defeat from the get go.  Christ works through us but it is Christ and it is still His work.  His Word shall not return empty.  What is not possible for man is not only possible but certain for God.

The Church does not need saviors.  It has a Savior.  The Church does not need visional leaders.  It has a vision and Christ is head of His body the Church (the mind to guide and control that body).  We need to spend less time hand wringing in fear and more time speaking and acting as if what we believe, teach, and confess is real, true, and powerful.  If the Church is suffering today, it is surely in part because of her enemies in a world that doubts God's existence or relevance but it is also in part because the people of God no longer have confidence in the Lord, in His Word and Sacraments, in His promises, and in His work.  We bring these doubts and fears to the world as much as we bring the Gospel.  We approach His Word with caveats against the things that conflict with modern viewpoints and values and we approach His Church as if it were extraneous to the work of Christ (who seems to work individually in our minds rather than through a body). 

The Church has problems -- biggggg problems to be sure.  The Church structures may be crumbling even as we speak.  But Christianity will endure.  Not because we think it should but because Christ has promised it.  He is faithful.  He WILL do it.  When was the last time we said this to the world?  We who call ourselves Christians often confuse church buildings and headquarters with the Church.  We want to equate real estate with Christ and His reality.  We want to believe that the Church exits through and prospers through programs.  We fear that our leaders are not up to the task (who is?).  But this says more about us than about the Christ who insists that heaven and earth may pass away but the Word of the Lord endures forever.  Christ has not come to fix our todays but to deliver a brand new tomorrow.  Heaven and earth will pass away and are right now passing away but the Kingdom born of Christ through His death and resurrection will not and cannot pass away.


Janis Williams said...


Donna said...

Great posting. There is much hand wringing theses days. It’s what made “The Benedict Option” so talked about. We need to remember your comments.