Sunday, September 20, 2015
On a recent journey across several states, I could not help but notice how different the church landscape is from those days when I first walked in its doors. In the places where I grew up, churches usually bore the name of some denomination and were identified by a geographical name. Churches were named according to a town or neighborhood. or maybe, proximity to a creek or a road. Later as a pastor I moved into a city where the Saints had it. In the United Methodist denomination alone there were churches named: St. John, St. Mark, St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Paul. It certainly would appear to be a holy circle!
What I noticed on my recent journey was the absence of this naming which might be considered more traditional. Some might say archaic. Nonetheless, one thing noticed was the absence of any denominational affiliation on the signs. Maybe some had none, but more likely, it was intentionally not highlighted for the community to see. Some think such provides a better atmosphere for getting people to come. But, it was really the names which stood out. I saw churches bearing such names as: The Well, The Bright Spot, The Pointe, Fellowship, and The Door. It would seem the rationale is that being a member of The Bright Spot sounds more attractive to the world than First United Methodist.
I sometimes wonder if any of this reflects in any way upon the health and life of the church. Probably not. Maybe all these words are simply a lament about an ecclesiastical world that is rapidly changing. Certainly, what we see on the outside could be seen as a reflection of the new and different ways technology is being used for the gospel on the inside. Much about the church has changed in these sixty years I have been a part of it. But, the change which concerns me most is not so visible. It is the one which speaks of the way that the church has become more and more attentive to common consensus instead of the sacred Word as it seeks to find its way forward.