I hope the warm days of summer and its celebrations and vacations are treating you all well. Though I know we are all in and out in this season with travel, know that your church continues to serve and minister, to worship and care, no matter the season. And you are always welcome to join in with us!
I have recently been thinking about the church’s role in 21st century America. At the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly gathering this year in mid-June, there were more conversations about how church functions in the world today – large gathering lectures, breakout sessions, and lunch and dinner conversations. There were discussions about race relations, social class relations, interfaith relations, and the work of justice vs. charity. There are so many ways churches are engaging in the world and staying relevant, and what I found most intriguing was just how individual each church’s approach was. The context in which a church finds itself is the most important aspect to keep in mind as ministries are planned.
Just the other day the Martinsville Bulletin ran an article about small churches that have struggled in our area entitled, “Some Martinsville-area churches are fighting for their salvation.” The article told the stories of three churches in town who have faced closings or near-closings. The reality of the struggles churches face definitely came through in this article, and I know we all wonder what church will look like in 10 or 20 years in Martinsville and Henry County.
Baptist News Global, the publishing group that affiliates with CBF, posted an Opinion piece recently that I think rightly sees the hope for the church. Written by Bill Wilson of the Center for Healthy Churches, the article is entitled, “What the gloomy predictions about church overlook: a minority report.” In it, Bill reminds us that there is more opportunity to be church today than there ever has been. We have opportunities to be more creative and thoughtful than ever before. So-called “crises” for Christian churches often produce some of the best innovations. He says:
This is no time to relax or give in to the temptation to dismiss the facts with a naïve belief that all will work out for good. Every congregation needs to take a fearless look at itself and admit that its likely future is grim without significant God-inspired innovation and retooling. Fear may be your starting point for change, but it must soon give way to God-inspired hope and hard work if you are to endure.
We are poised as an established church with a wonderful facility located in the heart of Martinsville to do amazing and innovative ministry in the years to come. I, for one, am excited about this opportunity. May we prayerfully consider how we can tap into God’s creative work here together!