Came across this post here about the decline of Kodak, and some really insightful reflections on church decline in response to it, and it reminded me of how difficult it is to hear truth when its spoken to us. This is something I began to reflect on last week and I want to continue thinking about it. Its not just about church, its about being open to changing situations- i just happen to be working in a church which finds itself in a changing situation.
Or do we? I mean, the first challenge has to be as simple as that- have things changed, are things different? Do we simply, in the words of the game Bop it (great game, insanely irritating voice), need to ‘Do it again, but better!’ or do we need to recognise that we need to start from first principles.
The key to that lies in knowing what we’re about- why we are doing this. To take an example from outside of work/church: when I’m struggling with parenting it really helps me to remember why I’m trying to… (fill in the blank)…. It might be getting them to eat their veggies, sit up at the table, brush their teeth, tidy their toys, play nicely together, not run across the road, stop screaming etc. But by remembering that my hope, the vision, the aim isn’t simply to produce a child that eats vegetables (or whatever it might be this time), but rather to help them become someone who appreciates good food and the people who prepare it, to be healthy and all that stuff, because ultimately I love them and want them to understand that. Sometimes it feels important to ‘win’ the conflict over the dinner table, but at other times I can see the bigger picture.
In church we need to remember the bigger picture too. In fact, in most of our lives we could probably do with remembering what the bigger picture is. Its rarely the same as whatever is bang in front of us- its the background stuff, that actually is more important.
But its hard doing that, and it runs contrary to most of our structures. Get a job, but remember that work isn’t everything. Work hard, but it shouldn’t be your highest priority. Compete to the best of your abilities, but without causing damage to others. Our society praises selflessness at some levels, but celebrates selfishness to a greater degree.
In church life- care for those who are part of the church and worship God, but remember that God has sent all Christians to care for those who aren’t part of the church and don’t know who God is yet… Worship God with all your heart, but in such a way that you don’t exclude those who’re with you for the first time. And to be honest, we’ve a lot invested in ‘the way things are’- the traditions of our forefathers have built the place where I work and created the job that I do, for starters.
What would it look like if we honestly approached things from the first principles? If we recognised, for starters, that the world around us is different from the world our parents grew up in (hey, its different from the world I grew up in). And are we willing to change things so that we can do/be what we’re really intended for?
Do we want our children to love us, or simply eat up their dinners? Do we want our lives to have meaning, or simply to have achievements? Do we want our churches to embody God’s love in our communities, or simply to exist in our communities?