Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
It feels good to worship. If feels comfortable. One of the pleasures of attending worship either in person or online, is hearing a message to reflect on, listening to singing that sooths the heart, and participating in prayers that lift the spirit. Many people see church as a respite: an escape from the daily grind of work, social issues, news media, and the constant bombardment of social media. Church is where people get away from the weekly pressures of life and just be with God and others.
Recently, however, leaders have been bringing social issues into the house of God. Pastors have been preaching a different gospel. Some are talking about white privilege. Others are lifting up black lives and even daring to say they matter. Sermons are forcing attention to protests and issues that may even be political. The feel-good message with three points and a poem (with a joke in-between!) is getting hard to find.
What is going on? Like Mary in the Gospel of John, many are looking into the empty tomb and wondering, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him!” (John 20:13b). Sarah B. Drummond provides some insight in her book, Holy Clarity. In distinguishing the modern church from the postmodern church, she touches on some issues we are experiencing today. She writes:
“The (churches) where the minister’s leadership is rooted often took shape during the modern era and have not experienced meaningful change since then. They are governed by standing committees that move methodically and slowly, even when significant issues (such as rapid membership decline) arise. Their budgets are based on what the church has done in the past, not on what it might do in the future. Their leadership structures are hierarchical, often with the pastor as the head. . . They interpret conflict as a problem to be fixed; they interpret popular culture as an enemy to their cause. Few (pastors) feel prepared to engage in conversation with someone who thinks that the institutional church is simply unnecessary, but such conversations are the wave of the future in a postmodern church world.”
The church of the future, or even the church today, is not the same as it was years ago. The gospel is being interpreted with a sensitivity to voices that in the past have not been heard. The liturgy is reflective of a society that did not exist–or if it did exist, it was ignored–when we led churches years ago. The clash of modernity and postmodernity makes all of us who have a foot in both worlds feel uncomfortable.
Perhaps it is time we let go of the old way of doing church. COVID-19 has provided a chance to shake things up and reshape what church can be. The shaking of the foundations has opened cracks and fissures that allow people to enter who have not felt welcomed, led to a transformation of the heart that has been needed, and given a chance for the church to shift closer to the original Jesus movement rather than the movement of modernity.
I would like for you to walk with me into this new church. I know some will want to walk away. But I believe we can walk together as sisters, brothers, and siblings into a future that keeps the church relevant while delivering the gospel of Jesus Christ to a new age.
Rev. Craig M. Howard