Posted by: jblevins | August 18, 2008

The Future of the Church is Now

As a part of my job with the Eco-Justice Programs of the Council, I have had the privilege of getting to hear the stories of what people of faith across the country are doing to better care for God’s Creation. I have had stories submitted to me through our website, have met with church groups from Virginia to Montana, and have interacted with the leaders of our church camp and conference centers to hear what they are doing. The stories of the awareness of the church and its desire to respond never cease to amaze me.

This past week, however, was a different kind of experience for me. I spent the week in Colorado, Estes Park, to be exact, with about 130 other Church of the Brethren Young Adults – and it made me realize more than I ever have that the future of the church that my generation represents is now, and is already happening. The ownership of the major issues facing the church taken by this group of people ages 18-35 was incredible, and the passion for solving them infectious. I led a session on what people of faith can do to combat climate change, and barely had to talk the passion in the room was so great. I come home to say that the future of the church has begun, and it may just be one of the most beautiful transitions that could take place in the church.

Much has been written about the dying nature of the mainline, Protestant denominations in the United States. But if this gathering of Young Adults was any indication, the church is anything but dead. Rather, the Spirit of God is moving in these people, and preparing them to do amazing things in this world.

Jurgen Moltmann writes,

It is the task of the Christian Community to remind the civil community unceasingly, through word, act, and presence, of the righteousness and justice of God and his coming kingdom. The church is not like a sect, separate, and there only for itself. It is there for all human beings, and for nature in this earthly creation. (The Future of Hope: Christian Tradition Amid Modernity and Postmodernity, 22).

This is the kind of belief I saw on display this past week. And as much, if not more so, than the stories of what people of faith are doing now, this kind of belief inspired me to expand my vision of the type of change people of faith are capable of in the future – to expand my vision to see the future the way God may see it – and the way I now know about 130 other people of my generation do.

If the church is only the church when it exists for others, when it is drawn out of itself, this momentum is drawn from the life of Christ, who makes room in the Body fo the whole world […] Because God is always more than our experience, reason, or traditions, God invites us to imagine as we respond to the divine: God cannot be comprehended, but God stretches the imagination beyond expectation.” (Jenson, David. Whose Conversation?. “Theology That Matters: Ecology, Economy, and God. 20-24).

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