We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, January 31, 2014

Adapting to the New Climate

As described in yesterday's posting, "Church Decline & Not Knowing What is Going On For Sure," local congregations of all denominations and faiths in the United States are having to adapt to a new social and cultural climate, one that is colder and less hospitable.  This is less true, apparently, in the South than the rest of the country and especially true of the Northeast, but on the whole we live in a new religious environment, at least a Little Ice Age.  The challenge is to adapt.

The evidence at hand suggests that American churches are finding it hard to adapt.  Thus, as one small example, Thom Rainer's posting, "12 Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face," which lists the responses to what he calls a "non-scientific Twitter survey" in which he asked pastors and church staff members, "What is your biggest challenge in ministry?"  According to his respondents, the churches they serve are apathetic, inwardly focused, lacking in lay leadership, and financially challenged.  They cling to their traditions, focus on trivial matters, and some members devote themselves to criticizing pastoral leadership. Rainer concludes, "What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences."

The weather has turned cold.  It is harder to find game, which is also dying off.  The crops we've been depending upon can't survive in this new, harsher climate.  Church folks are mostly hunkering down, shivering, and not very happy in these new conditions.  But here and there old churches are adapting, new forms of churches are emerging.  Religion is taking new forms.  And it is worth a thought that all of this is encompassed in the providence of God.  We're still headed in the direction of the Kingdom.  Amen.