المؤلف: Peter Houston
Category: الشهادة الشخصية, الأطفال والشباب
What follows are a few thoughts on church growth, the place of young people and my denomination. (If you belong to another denomination you may end up agreeing with some of the challenges…) It links in with several conversations on the need for local churches, and denominations as a whole, to be outward facing and life affirming (see Outward-facing, life-affirming and well-informed: only the best will serve our cities by Rod Green).
Being Anglican is to acknowledge that the history of the denomination sets a precedent for developing a form of Anglicanism that has not yet existed. In the pursuit of fresh expressions of church one cannot hold onto traditions because they are explicitly “Anglican”. The Anglican Prayer Book, the Anglican Eucharist and even the concept of Anglican sacred space has always been dynamic and changing. Today’s youth do not need therefore to be brow beaten and disciplined into becoming “good Anglicans.” (That’s not what really matters…)
Being Anglican is to appreciate the breadth and richness of the various traditions that come together under one roof. It is not to advocate an “out with the old and in with the new” philosophy, but to embrace both old expressions as well as fresh expressions of church. The old wine skins are perfectly good for holding the old wine. Older forms of Anglicanism are necessary for the nurture and worship of Christians who have grown up in the Anglican Church. It may also be an important vehicle for reaching out to and evangelizing the many nominal or cultural Christians for whom the outward form of Anglican ceremony still provides a sense of predictability and security. But new wineskins are needed for new wine. A new form of church is required to reach a new generation.
Being Anglican at this juncture in history is to accept the hard truth that God is not obliged to keep our churches alive. The New Testament churches Paul planted in Corinth, Philippi and Emphasis are no more. God let events overtake them. In form, structure, worship-style and practice, they have ceased to exist, except in echoes here and there in some of our present-day churches. If God let those churches die, God can let Anglicanism die. However, God has seen to it that the message and witness of the New Testament churches planted by Paul has been faithfully transmitted. It lives on today in yet another generation of believers. The point is not Anglicanism, or any denomination for that matter, the point is the continued transmission of the Gospel of God to the world.
Being Anglican, therefore, is to be urgently reminded that:
In as much as the Church continues to faithfully, effectively and persuasively convey the message in both word and deed that salvation has come to the world through Jesus Christ, God sustains that part of the Church by his Holy Spirit. If young people are encountering a living God in our churches that is more awesome and substantial than the high of drugs, the mystery of sex, the affirmation of good grades, the security of wealth, and the acceptance of friends, then God continues to honor and enliven that space. And then…there is hope for reaching our young people.
Should the church become more concerned with being a holy-huddle, defending its own form of club-membership and outward appearance, God may and often does let us become the victim of our own religiosity, inflexibility and inwardness. Church membership declines and the denomination or a particular local church fades away to exist as a struggling remnant.
What does the future hold?
Note: I invite you to reflect on your own church’s strength and weaknesses in proclaiming the Gospel. I critique my own denomination because I am part of it (and committed to it) and I prefer not to point fingers at others since that just gets ugly and even petty!