Some of you might feel I woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday in light of my previous post on the western church’s marginalized relevance. I can assure you, that is not the case. I am quite happy and content in the Lord. Others might feel I am at risk of giving up on the church. This also is not so. I am more hopeful than ever, given the conversations I have been having in the past few years about faith in general and the church in particular. Yet, I admit it is painful to air my thoughts for a few reasons. I dislike the sense of negativity that is associated with addressing problem areas. On the other hand, I also recognize it is not constructive to bury our collective heads in the sand, pretending everything is just fine when it isn’t. Secondly, I do not want to be represent myself as someone who is a whiner with no real solutions to contribute to the conversation. This is the very point of engaging the issues in the first place. And third, I want to carefully point out once again that there are many very fine, loving, generous churches throughout the western hemisphere who are doing church in ways that truly connect with the culture.
Unfortunately, due to the public difficulties of highly placed Christian leaders, especially in the last twenty years, our credibility has been terribly strained, if not disregarded altogether by the world.
Here are some suggestions as we move ahead in 2008.
1. Let’s maintain due diligence in technique and skill, but let’s pay special attention to worship and intercessory prayer.
2. Let’s redouble our efforts to be transparent and accountable in our financial and moral lives, striving for utmost integrity at all times.
3. Let’s dispense with isolationist religious practices which prohibit us from connecting with the very people with whom Jesus would have us converse.
4. Let’s recognize the difference between our own cultural prerogatives and biblical principles.
5. Let’s be in private who we say we are in public, both as a church and as individuals.
6. Let’s proclaim the message based on the foundation of God’s work in our hearts, through our hands, and in the midst of the vibrant conversational community which allows those who don’t believe the opportunity to be respectful dialogue partners.
7. Let’s redeem the purpose of our church campuses and congregations so that we truly are difference makers in the local community.
8. Let’s be contagious, vibrant followers of Jesus in the neighborhoods where we live, work and play, creating miracles of community which connect in loving, transformative ways so that the world will take notice and marvel at what God is doing.
9. Let’s be people of the Word who do not need to carry a physical Bible at all times since it is hidden, in large part, in our hearts.
10. Let’s love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. Let’s act justly and prefer one another over ourselves.