The church is in crisis mode, as the number of people leaving church each Sunday continues to outnumber the number who return.
The crisis, however, isn’t about the numbers, an increasingly secular culture or some kind of societal pressures to dismiss God.
The crisis is internal. It is in the reality of our faith, and the numbers are simply a symptom. We have ended our genuine and persistent exploration of God’s love in lieu of doctrine, programs, services, and contentment.
Just this week I opened my email to read: “Bradley, you know I had trouble with church and ‘God’…”
The trouble with ‘God’ is an expression of the trouble with church, it is the ‘god’ we’re representing, a ‘god’ that is not present, a ‘god’ that doesn’t transform our life or our community, a ‘god’ that doesn’t impassion us to live and breathe our faith, a ‘god’ that doesn’t reflect the most perfect expression in the life of Jesus.
Our faith isn’t touchable or real or visible. At least it doesn’t appear to be. Countless of my conversations begin just like that email, because the world cannot see what a Christian community is supposed to be in the midst of our crisis of faith.
Hugh Halter asks in The Tangible Kingdom, “If Christianity was only about finding a group of people to live life with, who shared openly their search for God and allowed anyone, regardless of behavior, to seek too, and who collectively lived by faith to make the world a little more like Heaven, would you be interested?”
Halter was met with an exuberant response, because, like the rest of us, the man was searching for tangible faith, a place where faith impacts life in our community, a place where Jesus’ words come to life.
I assure you that pastors are aware of the crisis, but we, just like you, are searching for this tangible faith. We sense, too, the inconsistencies between Jesus’ passionate message of love and our internal and unimpactful faith.
Seven words have become increasingly significant to my understanding of the Christian’s call. You’re probably familiar with them, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
We’re not simply called to pray about it; we’re called to live out our faith in a way that God’s kingdom is present on earth.
Real, visible, touchable faith is hard. Our God has endless mystery and a love that should infiltrate our entire beings, our lives and our community. Exploring God’s love is an act of receiving and expressing that love in our community; it is an act that brings God’s kingdom to earth.
• Bradley Christianson-Barker is pastor at Open Door Church.