Let’s be honest . . . People don’t need church anymore. At least they don’t think so.
There was a time when church was a gathering place on a Sunday morning, a place to meet others and network, a place to be healed, a place to turn to when you needed help, a place to learn. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. In fact, in early U.S. history the church steeple had a prominent place in what was the most visited area in towns and cities – the town common. Alongside of the general store, bars and restaurants and occasional doctor and attorney offices, the church claimed real estate that said “We matter to you. You need us. We need to come together.”
Not so much today.
Want to hear a sermon or learn more about issues of faith? Google it.
Want to hear inspiring Christian music? YouTube.
Want to network with others? Facebook.
Need financial help to get you through tough times? GoFundMe.
Want to join others to share in a common interest? Sports leagues and clubs.
What can the church really offer when each of us has so many options for things we used to have to come to church for, when even taking Communion can be done online? Isn’t “church” so last century?
Let me offer two ideas. They’re about community and mystery.
At Ascension we call ourselves “a caring people.” Inherent in that claim is that Ascension is where people tackle both the wonderful and the ugly stuff of life together. “No person left behind.” “We’re all in this together.” That kind of stuff. That’s what we’ve done at Ascension for more than 70 years. We’ve helped one another through financial setbacks, deaths of loved ones, illnesses, parenting and grandparenting. And we’ve done it face-to-face in the trenches together. Like a church on the town common. That’s community. I’ve been blessed by that. Chances are that you have, too.
Last time I Googled “Help me” the only response I got was a link to an old Joni Mitchell song.
We’ve also engaged together in the mystery that is God. Even on our best days, we encounter God and realize that we still have more questions than answers about who he is, his plans for us and even how deeply he really loves us. We soon realize that everyone has questions about God and his plans. Church provides us with a community to grapple with the big questions of life and faith. Although a lot of the mystery remains, we learn to grow comfortable in it and even engage more deeply with this mysterious God. We learn to trust him even though we can’t answer all of the questions. In fact, accepting the mystery of God is part of the fun, especially when it’s part of our weekly worship experience.
Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.
© Ed Klodt, 2019 (Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)