It's the end of the calendar year and beginning of the Christian year. This offers great opportunity to reflect on the past year/years and to dream about the possibilities in the coming year.
A couple of days ago I was reading about GM and their last year with the new CEO, the ignition switch recall of 800,000 vehicles, and their ongoing quest to change in order to succeed today. It reminded me of a blog I posted some 5 years ago comparing the UMC to GM as the big institutions which did well in previous years must now retool in order to be competitive and strong today. These years later I wonder how much, or is it how little, talk leads to action. I also wondered about rhetoric inside the organization versus the objective reality of "by the numbers approach" and comparison to similar organizations. Of course, do we look for profit, or production, or consumer perception, or dependability, or other numbers. It is easy to "do what you've always done," but given some time that typically leads to an institution finding itself "overspending, overmanned, and inefficient."
In this Christmas season we wonder again at the mystery and reality of incarnation. "If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here." What does it mean to be an incarnational church, the Body of Christ today, in ways that save us and save those in our midst? What does it mean for us to be the Church Militant/ Ecclesia Militans in our own community?
I'm also thinking some about the complexity, yet simplicity, of church. The complexity seems to revolve around the every day reality of life in a church- the flow/tug/tide of tradition, personalities, and small group dynamics, and issues of position and power in a community. The simplicity seems to revolve around what God continues to do in people's lives, the way of Christ, the ongoing power of Spirit, the yearning we all have for the Kingdom of God unleashed in our lives today.
I'm thinking a lot about congregations and how they are effectively sharing a witness for Christ in their community. I'm also thinking about how many of us struggle in this secular day to be effective in such ministry. Is it that this generation is less religious or that the churches we have built/designed/programmed just don't meet the needs of people today?
A new year is almost upon us. Now is the time for renewal and for being an incarnational church where our neighbors may find the community of salvation.