The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Where have all the Unchurched/Dechurched/Nochurched gone?

Bishop James Swanson is a blogger ... and I'm glad of it.

If you haven't gone to www.holston.org recently, journey over there and read the Bishop's Blog.

His most recent entry reminded me of a New Year's column I penned for The Daily Times. Much to my dismay, it wasn't in thedailytimes.com's archives. Sigh ... we're human, even if technology isn't. So, I decided to regurgitate it here.

Grace and peace ...

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Church needs to start paddling

There’s good and bad news as the year 2004 begins: The Church is in trouble.

That statement will surprise some of you -- particularly those who are in churches with growing memberships, building programs, and other tangible signs of "church growth."

There are others who probably are not surprised by that opening statement. However, the citations set forth by many as "the trouble with the Church" will point to debates over gay marriages, the ordination of gays, child molestations by clergy and such hot-button issues. While those issues do carry a great deal of importance, they are not the trouble that’s on this clergy-journalist’s mind today.

The trouble with the Church today?

-- A perception of irrelevancy. There is a vast number of "unchurched" people in the World who see the Church as irrelevant. Some of the people are Christian believers who once attended an institutional church, but no longer attend; some are Christian believers who attended, but infrequently; and some are unbelievers.

Their reasons for abandoning the institutional church vary, but behind those reasons is one commonality: They believe the institutional church is irrelevant. It is perceived as irrelevant to their life, in that it cares little for them, or their situation, except for wanting to add another name to the church roles; and it is perceived as irrelevant to their community, in that churches only care about those people who are "like us."

That is not a new revelation, but it is one that the Church must meet head-on if it is to meet the mandate of the Great Commission -- that of going into the world and making disciples of Christ, for the sake of Christ. Churches who make the gospel relevant to the hungry, to the hurting, and to the disenfranchised will meet the mandate; those who do not, will not.

Think of this: A church can grow in membership, launch building programs and increase the budget exponentially and still be irrelevant. How? By focusing on membership, building programs and the budget, while neglecting the hungry, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned, the disenfranchised ... Jesus Christ among us.

-- A reality of immobility. While the focus of the past decade has been on establishing new worship services -- first targeting baby boomers, then targeting twentysomethings, Millenniums, or whatever is the demographic of the moment -- the Church seems unable to move what appears to be a vast army beyond the sanctuary doors.

Why is that?

If you believe that what we call discipleship has its roots in worship, then the fruit of discipleship is correlative to the degree in which we worship in spirit and in truth. Superficial attempts at worship (whether in contemporary or traditional settings) will result in little or no fruit -- an immobile congregation. Those engaging in true worship -- worship in spirit and truth -- will naturally produce a bumper crop of discipleship. They will look for ways to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned and sick, and focus on being disciples of Christ, for the sake of Christ and others.

If you look at Blount County alone, the vast army of potential disciples gathered in sanctuaries on a given Sunday is staggering. What would this county look like if they opened their hearts and wills to the movement of the Holy Spirit? The walls would come down, because there would be no stopping the power of God.

Finally, the Church is in trouble because of ...

-- A resistance to change. Again, that is not a new revelation, but this is the most dangerous foe of all in postmodern Christianity.
Much has been written and said in recent years concerning the "emerging church" and "postmodern" faith, but if you find someone who claims to be an expert, keep looking. Still, one constant component in what is being said and written is that doing things the way we've always done them because that’s the way it’s always been done will no longer get it -- if it ever did. Another component is that those working the field of the emerging church are uncovering what some might find as an unexpected surprise: Therein lies a fertile field of faith.

But, to mix a metaphor, the field of faith today is as fluid as the ocean. The Church has to catch the wave, and for some of us there’s some hard paddling to do.

The bad news: Some believers are already worshipping outside of our doors, because they believe the institutional church will remain irrelevant, immobile, and unable to change.

Want to hear the good news?

Many of them are worshipping in spirit and in truth.

And that’s what the Father desires.