I want to spend several weeks exploring the idea of where we are right now in the CGGC, particularly as we anticipate looking forward into the future and discerning where the Lord wants us to go and what He wants us to do as His people. Some of what I share will be from a broader view – where the CGGC reflects what’s going on across the larger evangelical church in North America. At other times, the sense will be much more specific to the CGGC and where we find ourselves in this critical moment.
I was talking to a friend earlier this week who asked “what’s the general mood of the churches in your denomination?” That’s a difficult question to answer because we have many unique churches and situations: some are thriving and experiencing wonderful ministry while some are languishing and broad generalizations usually aren’t all that helpful. The one word that came to mind was “fear.”
I shared with my friend that while we have some congregations that are seeing tremendously encouraging results, across a wide swath of our congregations (as well as a large portion of North American churches) there’s a sense of fear that’s hard to shake.
I’d summarize it this way: we have many churches that don’t know what the future holds or if their local congregation has a future. These are congregations that are becoming painfully aware of the fact that they are not holding onto their own kids, much less reaching the next generation. There’s a sense that what’s worked in the past is not working today in relation to ministry methods or practices. We’re living through enormous cultural shifts where it’s becoming clear that many in our society do not hold to our own views and values.
Fear. Sometimes it’s a fear of dying. Perhaps it’s a fear of becoming irrelevant. For others it’s a fear of losing the culture wars. With some it’s the very personal fear of losing their kids or grandkids. In other settings it may be a fear that we’re too far gone to change the outcome now. The fear is real.
This past week I was reading about Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14. In verses 21-22 it says that “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,…”
Something about verse 22 and the words “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” resonated deep within my soul. I understand and even sympathize with many of my brothers and sisters and the real fears they’re experiencing, but fear itself won’t bring us to where we need to be.
We’re living through a period of tearing down and upheaval and it’s frightening and unsettling, but ultimately, I believe God is at work to bring His kingdom. Some of our hardships in entering the kingdom of God will require us to repent and unlearn much of what we’ve come to believe about what it means to be “the church.” There will be pain in this season. It will not be easy. But I believe God is at work right now in the midst of our fear.
We’re going to have to go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 13, No. 4