On the final day of General Assembly, five individuals from across the country shared their reflections on two questions: What does it look like for the church to be on the edge of new possibilities? And, what does it look like for church to take those first steps into the crossing?
Here is a transcript of Ivan MacLean’s reflection:
I guess for the first question about what it looks like for the church to be on the edge of possibility, we [the young adult representatives] came to a decision as a group that the church isn’t really close to the edge yet; but God is calling us to the edge. We don’t feel like we’re in a position at the moment to be making the first step into the water. We’re working our way to the edge.
One of the things that came up is that, as many of you may have noticed even in your own congregations, we’re missing some demographics, more noticeably youth and younger families. Maybe these people, these younger people, don’t feel the need for church in the business of life. They don’t feel the church is a priority. Or maybe they don’t feel they belong in the church. So how can we renew our church to include these demographics and how can we be a church that’s relevant to today’s society?
I believe the answer is: we must first start looking at the health of our own congregations. I once heard that, if I asked you how is your church doing, most people would probably respond with: “Oh, we get 50-60 people on a Sunday.” But this doesn’t really answer the question, does it? If I asked you, “How’s your family doing?” and you responded with: “Four.”
As congregations, are we praying? Are we being transparent with each other? Are we letting down the walls to make ourselves vulnerable, to allow us to really share our faith? As leaders of the church, are you challenging your congregations to grow in faith?
We need to make all these demographics feel welcome in our congregations, which means we can’t be afraid to make changes. We can’t be afraid to take risks. And some of these risks could include making our music more contemporary, more relevant to today’s society so it speaks to these demographics. We need to preach messages that are relevant for today, that people can apply to their daily lives, that resonate with today’s society. And most importantly, we need to be transparent with each other.
Personally, I came to Christ when someone showed me a real, living example of what it means to live for Christ. This individual shared their faith with me on a very personal level. They let down the walls, they revealed their imperfections and showed me how Christ made them whole. This took place, actually, at one of our summer camps. It wasn’t at a church at all, and I think we need to have the same levels of transparency in our church congregations.
Something that’s popular among some churches is making a Facebook group to post prayer requests and things like that. How are we supposed to be able to pray for each other as a church when nobody knows what anyone is struggling with? How can we build a community around people who show up at church if we pretend we have it all together when really we don’t? How can we build a strong community that will make other people want to be a part of it? I think at the heart of it is love.
Some other points that were brought up as well: Evangelism and mission aren’t always synonymous. We need to start acting out of love in our own communities as well as being involved in mission; we can’t really see the two things as being one and the same.
I guess to conclude, it’s been said at this assembly, actually, that we are a thinking church. On behalf of all the YARs here, I want to say that we need to put our thinking into action. I know that this might not necessarily apply to all churches or all congregations, but I do believe that this is good for promoting discussion and giving people ideas of what we need to change in our congregations to move closer to the edge.