Dear friends in Christ,
I am writing this from Kanuga, an Episcopal conference center in western North Carolina. It’s a beautiful place in a lovely part of the country. But I’m not just here to enjoy nature!
As you receive this, I am just about to head back home to Cincinnati. I’ve spent three days at a conference that gathers clergy who are seeking to lead the Episcopal church in bold ways in this missionary era of the church.
Back in the 1950s or so, churches thrived because it was the “thing to do” for many Americans. But that did not encourage us to consider our calling from Jesus Christ to make disciples. It was easy to have a full church, so it might have been tempting to take for granted why we were gathered.
Now we are firmly in the post-Christendom era. Fewer people go to church out of obligation. Especially when younger people show up in a church, it’s unlikely to be because they will gain social standing by attending church. They have come because they are seeking Jesus.
As challenging as this era is, it is a blessing. It is a blessing because we need to consider carefully the ways we are carrying out the mission that Christ has given us. We can’t assume that society will educate people in the faith; our churches must form Christians. Sometimes it’s tough to be a clergy leader in this era, and so I’m grateful for time with clergy colleagues who are doing this work.
Over the last three days, I heard stories of great success, with real growth in depth and number. And I heard the pain of contending with a culture that sometimes makes it tough to be a Christian. But we’ve been reminded that we’re in this together. More important: Jesus has promised to abide with us all. We’re never alone.
So if you are ordained and reading this, take heart! There are others who share your triumphs and struggles. If you are a lay person reading this, pray for your clergy. They need your prayer.
The wonderful news is that God loves us in our thriving and in our failing. And we don’t have to save the church. Jesus promised that nothing would prevail over the church, so it will endure until his coming in glory. Thanks be to God.
More from our ministry:
Consider the challenges facing congregations today: Signs of Life
From Grow Christians: St Mark, Sharing Love with the Unknown
Listen for God’s invitation in scripture: A Generous Beckoning
Celebrate Easter every day of the season at 50Days.org