Rethinking ministry is difficult. Implementing new ideas and establishing them is even more difficult. We should be acutely aware of this fact of faith as we engage this season of Lent/Easter. Jesus encountered the struggles of the cross while trying to reform the practices of the Jewish temple and community.
In a time when the Church is called to rethink ministry, it appears that in some places we are unwilling to engage the challenges. In each of my ministry calls over the past thirty-two years, contextual change was at the core of my work. In every circumstance, letting go of the old model was the most difficult aspect of engaging transformative change. I contend that our call to reform the PC(USA) in this present time is no less difficult as we are now called to retool our church in significant ways.
I used to hear the words, "If you do the same thing in the same way, you will usually get the same results." Well, if our denominational results are any measure, we have proven this statement to be true.
We must return to "being" the church that Jesus intended us to be. A church focused on liberating those trapped by the winds of despair, while giving hope to those who need to hear a Word from the Lord. If we are honest, each one of us has experienced this need in our lives. This requires hearing God's words anew while following the scriptures that daily call us to ask the question: "What greater love have any man (or woman) than to lay down his/her life for a friend" (Jn. 15:13). This concept is lost in our present need to depend on the empire solution to resolve the PC(USA)'s national church issues.
Comments that I hear in the pews are concerns about membership loss, racism, gun violence, desires for good pastoral leadership, property fights, immigration, aging church leadership, congregational redevelopments, attracting younger members, connecting to justice-centered work, and a host of other concerns that are close to their congregational and faith needs.
It is my view that we are challenged to respond to a new contextual reality. Simply put, the world is not the same. The needs of people have changed. Generational cultures are far different than my years of growing up. Ministry and community needs are continuously in flux. I use the words, "transformative change," because change without transformation could simply be understood as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." Transformative change requires a significant spiritual investment. It also requires a divestment of self-interest.
It is my prayer that we all will be reminded that the world, and all that is in it, belongs to God. We are called to serve the present age. And, transformative change requires submission to God's will and not our own.