Why don't people come to church anymore? Why have other things replaced the church as a priority? What do we have to do to "attract" people to our church? These questions are being raised by The Church all over the western world and especially the main-line denominations here in the States. The Church is struggling for an identity in a way She hasn't had to since the beginning. The Church's purpose and reason for existence have been lost. We as Western Christians are struggling to identify our place in a world which has passed by us and isn't looking back. We are caught in a dilemma. We are trying to pursue an identity which hasn't existed for some time, while living in a world which doesn't find any purpose or meaning in that former identity. Therefore, the world's view of The Church renders our perceived or idealized sense of identity, with ties to the past glory days, meaningless in today's world.
We need to face the facts. The Church has often been arrogant and misdirected by human attitudes even to the point of murder and political extremism. Yet throughout most of the past 2000 years there has been an identity which has predominated and given a sense of purpose to The Church's existence, even though that identity was often warped by human ambition and visions of self grandeur. The Church journeyed with society. She was interwoven within the fabric of people's lives often giving hope and providing shelter. The Church provided a direction and foundation for society and filled in the gaps of human error with the grace of God by being the arms and legs of Jesus in the world. Throughout most of the past 2000 years The Church has been a moving, living and breathing entity whose purpose was to impact the world for Jesus Christ. The establishment of Christendom was the focus. The Church was on a mission to make the world a Christian Kingdom. Today, The Church struggles to find a mission.
We are in crisis as
The Church because we embraced modernity. Modernity focused The Church on individualism. In the 19th and 20th centuries, The Church's mission was focused on personal spiritual growth and understanding. The result of such a shift in mission has brought us to this crisis of identity. Alan J. Roxburgh states it this way. "Individuals [tend to] become structurally, and often physically, invisible in terms of the culture's standard definitions and classifications. They lose their identity". In other words, the more we have turned away from our corporate/connectional roots, the more we move into oblivion. I wonder if we took the approach of the early disciples and shared everything together and viewed our mission to be Jesus arms and legs in the world, joyfully praising God and serving those in need, what would happen. What if we really took seriously the call to make disciples rather than converts? What if we were more concerned about people rather than institutions? Would we have an identity again that the world would find powerfully attractive?
Just some thoughts...