I sense a growing restlessness with the status quo in churches. We hear that our numbers are decreasing even though many of our larger churches do not sense this decline yet. Just this past week here in Houston, Joel Osteen moved Lakewood Church into a former basketball arena. They probably had about 50,000 people attend in one weekend.
We also hear that the evangelical America is influencing the political scene in numerous ways. Many in the "religious right" demand that George Bush push a religious agenda because it is them who put him in office.
Are we really losing our influence in culture? Is the church dying or thriving?
I think the answer has to be some of both. This is a moment of crisis. In fact, the church is always in a moment of crisis. Every generation is another chance at losing the faith forever. I think it is obvious that though we have influence in some areas, non-Christians have never been more turned off to Christianity than now. Why do we continue to build walls between "us" and "them?"
I think the answer to this post-Christian world is not to build bigger arenas and continue to invite "them" to come to "us." Rather, the church must change its language and direction. It is no longer "we" versus "them." It has to be us. The church is not to be set up against the world, but set up for the world. The church cannot be a city with a wall and a moat. It has to be a light among the world, a bridge to the world. People are not going to continue to come to church, the church is going to have to go to the lost. We cannot keep up our Constantinian model with the church at the center of culture because our world will not allow it. Disestablishment is not pretty but it is needed. We must become the church that seeks not power and prestige, but a marginal existence. Our steeples in the town square must not turn into arenas in the suburbs. We must become a growing influence in our city wherever we find ourselves.
I dream of a church moving in this direction and I sense a church ready for the task ahead. It's a church not so concerned about numbers and budgets, but a church focused on the mission of bringing the gospel to a broken and hurting world. A church that seeks the stranger and doesn't accept a homogeneous body. A church that accepts its position at the margin of importance and making a difference among the disenfranchised. That is a booming church!