Take a good look at the sweep of the whole story that the Bible tells. From the first book, Genesis, to the last, The Revelation, there is a story. The message: if anyone has a future it is the church. After all the furor and turbulence of human life has run its course in the biblical narrative, there remains a clear reality: the church, the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9). Death, the devil, the heavens, the seas, and the earth all pass away (21:2). But the church, “the city that God loves” (20:9) outlasts everything.
It is not wise to wring our hands over the future of the church. It is our perspective on the future that we need to be concerned about.
The church has always persevered. The hotbed of church growth today is The Islamic Republic of Iran. Throw church into adversity, oppression and persecution and it will endure. Actually, prosperity and material comfort have a more corrosive effect on churches than the threat of being jailed for the faith. I think God loves irony. In the next two decades materialism, self-styled spirituality and distraction will bring on the demise of thousands of congregations in the USA. Yet even in the midst of neighborhoods full of overscheduled and distracted people, congregations are springing up around the world that are faithfully calling people to love God and people.
I am hopeful.
I am deeply encouraged as I see us at First Presbyterian Church reaching out into our neighborhood and our world. We have the hope that has endured for thousands of years and continues. We are fighting the good fight to reclaim the hope of closer relationships, engagement with the Bible, practical trust in Jesus, and respect for those who have questions. It is not easy. But it is so in tune with that story in the Bible.
The church is forever. It is the hope of the world. You can see that in the faces and momentum in our church. I invite you to once again look at our church family in the faces of the babies to be baptized this month, the new members, the people gathered for worship, the community groups, Sonel Eugene as we support him as he enriches us, the prayer vigil, the SOS community dinners, and the Plumb Line Initiative. In addition to a thousand other ways, it is wonderful to see folks of all ages grow toward the future.
The hope is strong!