I have been off-the-blog for about 3 months and have missed it. I even came back to find that the WordPress dashboard has changed so much that I must figure it all out again! It occurs to me that this must be a bit of what it feels like when folks stay away from church for a while and come back to find just enough change to unsettle them. Small changes in the worship bulletin can seem great. New people are leading worship (people I have not even met!). The construction has changed the entrances to the sanctuary. Whoops! There used to be a nursery there — Oh, it’s down the hall and around the corner. And I don’t remember those restrooms being there … they’re new!
As we approach Pentecost Day, I am reminded that the wind and fire of the Spirit at Pentecost brought change. New ways of hearing, and understanding. A new perspective on the mighty works of God through the experience of others. New ability to communicate what God what was doing. It was change, brought by the presence of God’s Spirit, that birthed the Church.
It is the breath of God’s Spirit renewing life in the Church now. This renewal is taking place in congregations throughout the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and in other denominations. It is taking place in historic congregations and in new congregations in formation. When true transformation takes place, the church seeks to live in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. I see that happening in our congregation, as we seek to live the compassion, radical welcome, love, and peace that Jesus embodied. And I see it in other vital congregations in many places.
Our congregation does not fall in the category commonly identified as “evangelical churches”, but we certainly seek to be evangelical in the sense of living and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. I was interested in today’s Sojourner’s online article by Jim Wallis in which he speaks of the image many young people have of the church and of Christianity. The book UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon reveals that many young people perceive Christians as “hypocritical, too judgmental, too focused on the afterlife, and too political in the worst sense of the word.” But Wallis indicates that other studies show that people view Jesus as “compassionate, loving, caring, hung out with sinners and poor people, for peace.”
It is clear that when the Church moves in a direction that is in conflict with the way of Jesus the Christ, the Church loses credibility — as well it should! But when we have the courage and the openness to allow the Spirit to move in and through us so that we live as the body of Christ in the world, we become true Church. That does not mean that one denomination or congregation becomes the only true Church; rather it means that all those who live in the Spirit of Christ become true Church.
Today, evangelical leaders produced “An Evangelical Manifesto” which appears to make an effort to connect the image of the Evangelical Church to be consistent with the way of Jesus the Christ. They recognize that the association of Christian with political “right” or “left” is inappropriate. I hope that this is marks a change not only in image, but in substance.
I pray that the whole Church – across the world – is receiving the breath of Jesus, being transformed by the Spirit. I pray that whether we are identified as mainline, evangelical, emergent, Protestant, or Catholic we have only one identity and that identity is in the person of Jesus the Christ.