(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
February 4, 2018

People’s ‘fake’ detectors are set at a higher level than ever. You know why.

In a culture that markets everything to death, we long for authenticity. Fortunately, that’s the heart of the Gospel.

There was a time when people tried to show how ‘perfect’ they were. This never really worked. Today many people have stopped trying, because it is just too exhausting. I am not perfect! There, that is over with. Letting people see the real you (even if it scares you) is part of being authentic.

These days, letting people see you are human is a prerequisite for ministry to fellow humans.

As Western culture becomes increasingly post-Christian, our approach to church needs to change because our culture has changed. Mainline churches, like our Presbyterian family, are in numerical decline. This is a general fact. That means that it is very common in many churches, but there are exceptions. We are one of the exceptions.

I find my most helpful conversations with fellow ministers to be with those who serve in vital growing congregations. We do not tend to follow the wisdom that is part of the many congregations in numerical decline. Why? Because we are speaking different languages, come from different cultures, and follow different rules. The rules are: adapt or decline. The language problem we have is that declining churches truly think they are adapting, without really changing anything.

 

The great company Kodak declared bankruptcy in 2012 and closed their camera business. They invented digital cameras, yet they failed to adapt. They thought they were in the photograph business, instead of the image business.

Blockbuster Video and Sears Canada are other examples of fine companies that did not adapt to changing realities. Declining churches are selling a product that is not engaging people’s imagination or passions.

We live in a time of deep suspicion of just about everything. I grieve for the common perceptions about the church. The vast majority of church goers are reasonable, thoughtful people who want to make this world a better place. Yet the hate-mongers get all the news.

All my life, especially when I was studying theology in preparation for ministry, I felt inside myself that I was more spiritual than religious. It was never about the ritual, or the liturgy, or the styles of worship. It was to me, and always will be, about authentic relationships. Relationships with Jesus, and with my fellow followers of Jesus.

It used to be fashionable to attend church. Everyone did it. It was expected. Not anymore. Perhaps never again. I am fine with this. Authentic relationships with Jesus and with people engaged in making our world better for us all is what I see as the way forward. Authentic. This means I am required to admit that I am not perfect. (I am blessed with a family who offers assistance to me in pointing out my imperfections!)

Engaging people with authentic messages of hope, with concrete ways of helping others, and with appealing learning opportunities for all age groups, is why we thrive. There is no magic about this. We struggle in our humanity and accept that we need divine help. Fortunately, God’s help is always there for us. I am deeply grateful for this.