The Church is dying. It’s terminally ill. Perhaps it’s already dead.
Or so I’ve heard. I’ve heard it from professors, from church leaders, from sociologists. Attendance is dwindling, buildings are closing, and members are getting older. There are “not enough” 20-somethings, families with children, ethnic minorities, people who tithe, fill-in-the-blank. Expectations are too high or too low or too vague or too specific and this, I am told, is killing the Church.
Here’s the thing: the Church is not dead. I’m tired of hearing 40- and 60- and 80-year-olds tell me about how the Church is dying or dead.
I am 22 years old, and I am the Church, too.
I’m not going to sit by and let people tell me that we have no choice but to watch our congregations die. I’m not going to listen to voices that claim, whether from fear or concern or malice or the desire to complain more loudly than anyone else, that there is no future for Christianity in this country. I’m not going to pay attention to them because it’s clear to me that they are wrong.
Perhaps they mean that Christendom is dead. It is true that the Christian Church no longer enjoys its position of privilege in American culture. This, however, does not mean that the Church is dead. If it were my responsibility to ensure that the congregations I serve continue on exactly as they always have, then I would be in trouble. If we begin to worship numbers instead of God, problems will arise. If we expect the Church to function and thrive according to our parameters, we’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
Because the Church is not ours. It is God’s.
It seems pretty clear from the Bible that God delights in not behaving according to our parameters. This is really good news; it turns out that God’s ideas are way better than ours. When God is working, building up the Church by the work of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t always look like the model we have in mind, but it’s usually better than anything we could have imagined for ourselves.
Even if I’m wrong and the Church is dying, I’m not worried. The God we worship has a pretty solid record when it comes to bringing life out of death.