By CCCNZ Ambassador Mark Grace
We are entering a profoundly challenging ministry season.
The last 18 months have been challenging, the next 8+ months will be significantly more so.
It’s my sense that local church ministry in Level 2 is more complex than Level 3.
Church leaders in different parts of the world have noticed a common trend affecting churches in this phase of the pandemic. Matt Chandler sums this up with a picture of thirds: a third of the congregation growing in their engagement, a third of the church becoming dis-engaged, and a third have just disappeared.
A third of the church have increased their engagement
This third are those who have leaned into community; leaned into hospitality. This third are leaning into sacrificial service. They are stepping up and stepping out in faith.
This third are growing in unity, with a sense of what it means to belong to Christ, and to belong to each other as one body. They see this as a season for the Bride of Christ to shine in sacrificial service.
A third of the church have dis-engaged
Why? It’s complicated.
For some, managing family logistics has become a hurdle. For others, the health risks are too high.
For a number, the process of dis-engaging begins in the heart. People are increasingly shaped by algorithms; the pre-determined instructions our phones, computers, and social media use to show us information.
Algorithms are designed to connect with our hearts. They're designed to show us stories that will touch a nerve, serving up content that reinforces our heart's disposition.
The result is a hardening of heart in our own thinking, and a hardening of heart towards those who don’t share our views.
Our hearts are being influenced by ideologies and philosophies fed by algorithms as much as they are being influenced by Scripture fed by fellowship. It’s a potent, combustible mix.
The overall result is people forsaking gospel unity and dis-engaging from church over smaller, ideological differences.
A third of the church disappears
This third aren’t online and they aren’t in person.
The reasons are multifaceted, but the consequence is the same. They aren’t here and they haven’t been back.
As we head into this challenging season, with people in our churches engaging, dis-engaging, and disappearing, how are we to respond?
The Corinthians are a divided church, with divided leadership, and disputes across the church. The influence of external philosophies and ideologies is dismantling the community. They are in crisis.
In the midst of this crisis, Paul points them to the cross of Christ.
In chapter 1 he sees himself in light of the cross (1 Cor. 1:1). He sees the Corinthians in light of the cross (1:11-9). He sees their leadership divisions as an inability to see the centrality and significance of the cross (1:10-17). He recognises that it is the wisdom and power of the cross their hearts need, but it is the wisdom and power of the world they want (1:17-31).
Mixing human philosophy and ideology with theology won’t settle their hearts. On God's wisdom the weakness of the cross truly settles and satisfies the human heart.
He wants us to be very clear, Christ crucified is enough. Christ is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
Christ is enough
Christ crucified is a comfort to the engaged as they live lives of sacrifice and service in the local church and in the community.
Christ crucified is a loving challenge to disentangle our hearts from ideology and philosophy, and focuses the dis-engaged on the reality of the crucified King and his community.
Christ crucified is a call to the disappearing to return.
Christ crucified encourages us to comfort the engaged, to care for the dis-engaging, and to be kind to the disappearing.