The crying out on the state of the church is huge, massive, and honestly misplaced. Much of it stems from the impression that we control the church instead of Jesus. In a conversation with a person decrying the status of the North American church, I stated: “You know you’re talking about Jesus’ bride, right?” There is a lack of humility in how many Christians treat the church. All of that to say, I think the church is in a much better position than we think. Even given the crazy election cycle.
Election’s call to wake up
Of all the elections I’ve been able to observe, the saints exercised the most discernment I’ve seen in a long time. Much of this has to deal with how to vote when the field is very bleak. This woke Christians up to a new reality of what voting really is and what it really isn’t. Better still, it is waking the church up to the realization that many have sold their soul to a political party rather than their boss, Jesus. Both left and right of center Christians are in a quandary. This seems scary, but it is a good thing for the church. The Bible places a high value on discernment.
This isn’t home
Another big win I am seeing in the church is the focus on being on mission. The elections gave more speed to this, but over all the church is refocusing on something critical: Heaven. Understanding than national politics is a wrong course to take, but local politics is a wide open door, there is a change in focus on how to make our communities better places to live. This focus on the betterment of our cities is welcomed, and it is where the rubber meets the road. The over-emphasis on the macro-good sacrificed too many day to day good things we can and should be doing.
We are growing
While the church growth rate of 1% for evangelical churches is not as fast as we’d like, it does mean we are doing more than just keeping up with population growth. While over all the church is in decline in America, the evangelical church, which is my primary concern, is become more nimble and healthy. A season of pruning for the North American Church is a very good thing. Pruning often leads to more growth.
Social Gospel is back in a good way
The norm of church history is to over compensate. The church being involved and concerned for social justice issues is a welcomed sight. The Bible is more than just Jesus loves me. It is also how to help out our neighbors. Some churches made the social gospel THE gospel. This was wrong, just as ignoring social justice issues wrong. We need to be at work to speak for the defenseless and to be a voice of reconciliation, which is a core concept of the Gospel. We are realizing we can be involved in social justice while not ignoring the source of true justice, Jesus.
Churches being stratified based on age seems to be eroding. This is a great thing given the call we see in Titus 2 for older saints to invest in younger saints. There is a shift happening where people realize that tradition was not the enemy, but apathy is. The move towards high church or liturgy comes as we realize it is training in righteousness instead of stale repetitiveness. In a culture of chaos and instability, the church is finding its bedrock the practices of saints of old. The move towards church as family is welcomed.
Work to be done
Make no mistake, there is much work to be done. Ethnic reconciliation needs to be more effective. The idolatry of consumerism is a battle. Biblical literacy needs to be greatly improved. Living holy lives while not being legalistic is still an issue we struggle with. But over all, I see more good than ill in Christ’s church. I’m frankly more excited for the church in the days ahead. Paradigm shifts are hard and messy, but the ones happening in the church are good and noble.
The bottom line:
The church is much better off than many give credit for because God is at work building His church. With all the talk of issues we are having, we have forgotten all the amazing things God is doing. Growing into a God glorifying, healthy church is hard work, and it is very messy. Honestly, we have too many critics of the church and not enough cheerleaders. We’re doing well, so let us excel still more.