I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but local fellowships of believers are far different than just ten years ago. It isn’t just the prevalence of cafés or the absence of the Sunday night service, though those are worth noting. It’s that families are different, society is rapidly changing, and that has necessitated change within our local bodies. Our values have changed…and changed actions must result.
It wasn’t so long ago that we practically lived at the church. Sundays were jam-packed from Sunday school and worship services in the morning to afternoon activities. Meetings of every kind and special rehearsals filled our Sunday afternoons, and those led straight into Sunday evening services for adults while missions-themed clubs for children were being held. Wednesday nights included family-night suppers, children’s choirs, adult Bible study services, and adult choir rehearsal after church. Various other special events filled the other days and nights of the week. We loved every minute. We lived at the church.
Over the past few years, most of that has changed. Church is simpler. We value the family time of those in our congregations. As church leaders, we value our own family time and have refused to sacrifice our own families on the altar of ministering to others. Lessons have been learned as we’ve watched other leaders. We’ve begun to prioritize our lives in different ways than leaders in previous generations. We value serving our communities, getting outside the walls, not waiting for pre-believers to come to us! Instead of Sunday school, we meet in small, relational groups during the week in homes and even in coffee shops. We live more transparently than we ever have. Sunday night services do not exist at most churches. Wednesday nights are contemporary and full of younger people: children, youth, and young adults. These children and youth are so hungry for more of God that you can see it in their faces; you can hear it in their conversations. Watch and listen. They are not interested in dead, dry religion but are most definitely interested in a real God shown to them by authentic leaders, living real lives. This generation, once aimed in the right direction, cannot be stopped.
Musically, the landscape is very different as well. Where adult choirs still exist (and they always will in some form), they are often operating in harmony with a praise team. It is not unusual to hear of children’s choirs operating not at all or only for special events, like a Christmas or Easter musical, instead of during the entire August to May season.
So what does this all mean? “Why have you taken us through the history of where we’ve been to where we are now?” I’m glad you asked. I believe we cannot really determine where we are now and where we will go from here without stopping to look at our history. After we’ve done that, we are faced with a choice. We can (a) whine about our perceived losses and stubbornly continue to do what we’ve “always done,” expecting that eventually the entire world will change to accommodate us…or….(b) we can look realistically and gladly at the changes in our world and embrace them so we can move on to where Christ is at work now. As an optimist, I’m assuming you are choosing Option (b).