Membership or Discipleship???

While I’m away at the beach this week, I’ve been catching up on some conferences I’ve missed along the way (what else is there to do when you’re at the beach?!?), one of which is on the “emerging church”. I am part of a Church that prides itself on having close to 1.2 billion members worldwide, and when you think about it, I guess that really is something to be proud of. The reality of “Church”, though, is that it finds itself (whether it wants to admit it or not) in a time of transition, and one that is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. I read recently that a church must view itself more as a “center for seekers” than anything else in this day and age. People are looking for something and it goes far beyond being a member of a religious organization; it is a search for meaning, a search for who gives us meaning. You need only look to the next generation of believers/doubters to have some understanding of what is to come. No, it’s not a time to turn back the clock, but rather is a time to allows ourselves to “wait” in this liminal space until something new emerges. We have a hard time waiting and we want answers now. Yet, this new call of radical discipleship may take the Church to a new level, if it allows it to. Like humans, institutions have difficulty with giving up control as well, but it is only when we surrender to the mystery, can something new begin to take shape in our lives and in our Church. No, I am not saying that membership is a bad thing; I’d be the first to admit that a community gathered for prayer and fellowship is a necessary part of who we are (but that too is being challenged by online communities), but at the same time, we are being called and driven to something more, a radical discipleship and relationship with the living God and to bring it into the world. The confines of the church can no longer “hold down” what is emerging. Simply being a passive onlooker is no longer good enough, for what we are called to is something active, moving, messy, and so on; and yet, the only explanation is the Spirit at work in a people that will rise up to the newness of what it means to be Church in the modern world. In many ways, the challenges of the last decade with the Church and its abuse crisis, has lessened its credibility and silenced it in many ways, but once again the voice from the wilderness (and the people) will rise from the ashes and new life and a new way of being church will continue to emerge from the the wrappings of the tomb. What it will look like, none of us knows; but if we allow ourselves to wait and to be, we are given the hope that it is the work of God calling us to lives of authenticity and holiness in the world and in our Church. For it is not a Church of “just” membership (which may or may not have its privileges), but a Church of radical disciples of Jesus Christ.

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One thought on “Membership or Discipleship???

  1. Thomas Groome has an excellent book out called “Will there still be faith,” about the catechizing of youth, his experiences and lessons learned. Interesting so far. One stress that is clearly geared toward an emergent church, is the recognition and appreciation of other faiths and highlighting these. Very “Lukan Jesus.” Whatever the new church may look like, i hope that they have the courage to practice the table fellowhip of Christ and welcome all to our Sunday table.

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