Relevant Christian ministry in these rapidly changing times demand far greater and different responses than the church seem able to deliver both outside and inside. Thus debates flourish about the continued relevance of the church.
The 21st century dawned with Christianity boasting a new landscape. It was the dawn of the mega-churches, international ministries and the global dominance of charismatic Christianity. It’s the age of the contemporary Church Growth Movement. We attend, hear, and or read about the astonishing growth success stories all the time.
Mega-churches and their variety of ministries are the new standards for judging all other churches. The standardization of ministry aligned with this notion is that if you are doing ministry “right” then your church should naturally explode from small traditional church to cutting-edge charismatic mega church.
Reality tells us a different story. Moreover, the grass always appears greener on the other side.
Recovering Lost Ground?
I am not pessimistic about the powerful reach of God. However, I do not believe it is possible to recover lost ground. Many have died who never experienced the love of God through us. That cannot be corrected again in this life.
We can work though, to secure the present and also the future. There are many opportunities around us. We need to face the reality that we have to make changes in the way we do ministry.
A relevant Christian ministry requires a new thinking and a new vision. That is possible in Christ. The Holy Spirit can bring about that transformation in our pulpits, pews and homes and society. We cannot expect to receive new life in ‘old wine skins’. I suspect that is what we are still trying to do.
Church As Servant Community
The church is essentially a servant community. However, it is true that too many congregations have now reached dinosaur status because they were locked up behind their walls, thinking it was still fashionable (was it ever?) to serve themselves. We are not to confuse any such examples of “self-service” with the kind of ministry we are called to exercise as the worshiping community.
We take our cue on service from Jesus. In John 13:1-20, Jesus used the opportunity, through example, to teach his disciples what it means to be a true servant of others. Christ called the church to a life of service. We do not simply exist to cater solely to the (many) needs of our own membership; and doing a lousy job at membership care too.
In Mark 14:3-9 Jesus commends a woman, whom some call Mary for her sacrificial act of service to him. The conditions of our world today, demands such sacrificial acts of service today. The world is tired of our talk. They need to see us do what we claim to be.
To be continued.