Photo courtesy of jooinn.com
Undoubtedly, 2020 has disrupted our world with dramatic consequential effects, to be now felt over several decades and into the immediate future. The church like many community or social groups, must adapt and seek to refine its mission or slide into ambivalence or worse still, irrelevancy.
From 1966 to now, Christian faith in Australia has fallen from 88 percent to 52 percent, with a future scenario immanent to slide below the 50% threshold.
What might these factors mean for your local church?
I suggest we pray fervently to be awakened to the urgency of the hour. To do nothing is to err. To do something is better than doing nothing. To reignite our passion for the mission of Jesus and His Kingdom is the best outcome. May God spur us onward, ever vigilant to the perils of the journey, fully committed to advance the Gospel in new and compelling ways. The issue is movement – future focus and resolve.
So many leaders are somewhat blindsided by how tough ministry in the local church has become during this unique season. If anything, COVID has exacerbated an underlying tension – fewer people are willing to venture out on a Sunday to attend church, and even then, their attendance is spasmodic. A colleague remarked: “most of our growth is recycled Christians; many who carry pain from previous churches and who seem unable to move on”. Another leader posted: “it’s lonely up here on the coalface. Distrust is everywhere, people project their issues onto the key leader and I’m emotionally exhausted – spent and spiritually dry.”
These and other stories give ‘voice’ to the cost of the calling and the reality of life in ministry. Church life in a burgeoning atheistic Australia is getting harder. Loneliness and isolation are common.
In 1965 Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote a book: The Lonely Man of Faith, on the two sets of virtues represented in the creation accounts in Genesis. He argued that the two accounts of creation represent the two opposing sides of human nature; which he called Adam I and Adam II.
Adam I is the ambitious, producer, high status winner, evident in all of us.
Adam II is the serene inner character, one of self-sacrifice, service and genuine love.
Adam I and Adam II live by different logics.
Adam I lives by a straightforward logic of economics; input leads to output, effort creates reward, practice makes perfect and so on.
Adam II lives by an inverse logic – a moral logic. You have to give in order to receive, you have to lose yourself to find yourself and you have to discover your failures in order to learn.
Adam I is nurtured by cultivating strengths while Adam II nurtures their moral core by confronting their weaknesses.
Hopefully this sounds familiar. I suspect our inquisitive world is hopeful to meet the Adam II in all of us, for the church to become a deep repository of wisdom and for its leaders to start the pivot personally.
There is something else, even final about this season. True community is found locally and not in the ever-invasive global marketplace. There is a beckoning to forget global benchmarking – always looking over the fence to see what others are up to. Immersed in our location we begin to feel the heartache and heartbeat of a society longing for engagement.
Imagine how wonderful it would be if your church was so localised, real, honest and deep that it would be welcomed as a treasured spiritual asset in the broader community. I so hope you have the time, energy and motivation to pursue this dream.
 Soloveitchik J. The Lonely Man of Faith. © 1965. Doubleday.
How might you create time to consider some of the issues raised in this article? What might it look like to defer your normal leadership agenda and give each other permission to have some real conversations as to how you might pivot for the future?
As you read Soloveitchik’s rendering of the two Adam’s, where is the longing in your heart and spirit?
How do you measure success as a church? What metrics might you need to change going forward?
How do you build alignment and engagement going forward when considering the future of your church? How is leadership trust established in the life of your church?
Spend some time in reflection and prayer. What are you discerning?
Dr. Andrew Ball
Executive Ministry Director
Churches of Christ in NSW & the ACT.
© Fresh Hope Resources 2020.
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