When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say….
I can’t tell you what it a joy it has been for me to have my grandsons in our house for the past couple of weeks. Hectic goes without saying; stepping on Legos in my bare feet early in the morning, disconcerting, but a real joy nonetheless. What is even more moving, is to see then sitting with Charleen at bedtime, one on each side, as she reads to them and, each holding her hand as she prays with them before tucking them in.
I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for them. Our country is changing so fast, isn’t it? The whole world is. What will life be like in another ten years? Twenty years? What will life hold for our children and grandchildren? What will our church be like in another ten or twenty years?
Last month, in our church newsletter, I addressed the importance of our having a vision for our church. Vision is that picture we have in our minds as to what we believe the church should look like in the future. The Bible tells us that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We also know that the gospel doesn’t change. The gospel is the message of redemption- that Jesus gave his life on the cross for our salvation, and we receive that salvation by faith. And our task as the church is to bear witness to that truth today as the church has been doing for over two thousand years. But our community and the world is changing. So the question is, “How can we be the church and fulfill our calling as the church in the changing environment in which we live?”
These questions aren’t new. Christians have had to wrestle with them for over two thousand years.
Several important considerations come into play. The first is to distinguish between the negotiables and the non-negotiables. There are things that we cannot change without preaching a “different gospel”, as Paul speaks of it in Galatians 1. These things are almost always theological in nature. We cannot alter our beliefs with regard to who God is and the nature of our salvation in order to accommodate the spirit of the age without compromising the foundations of the faith.
There is another important consideration; what is the culture in which we live? Paul is not averse to this as he shows in 1 Corinthians 9, where he writes, To the Jew I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. And he continues to write that to those who were not Jews he became as those who were not Jews in order to win those who were not Jews. We see this in practice, for example in Acts 17 where he addresses the philosophers in Athens.
Francis Schaeffer taught that we must be exegetes of our culture as well as Scripture. He was able to understand the pulse of western culture of the 1960’s and 70’s (my generation), and was very effective in applying the gospel to the needs and questions of the day. I am finding that I cannot limit myself to the questions of my day if I want to speak to today’s generation.
That leads to the third consideration, and that is simply, how much do we really care about the needs of each successive generation, and how committed are we to the Great Commission? Each of these considerations affect how we formulate our vision as a church, because a vision has to do with how we see the future of the church.
What a delight to have my grandchildren in my home. It is equally a delight to have new babies and toddlers in the church. What will their church look like?
Pastor Tom Bridgman