Most days I really enjoy my job*. I have a lot of freedom to set my calendar, to spend time with people, or alone. I get to write, read, talk and do any number of things I find meaningful. But were you to catch me on the right day I would tell you that sometimes I can feel really down, and very discouraged.
It isn’t any one thing in particular that gets me feeling that way. The church I work for is filled with wonderful and supporting people. Most of the bumps we have hit in the two years I have been here have been minor, understandable, and addressed rather easily. I love my church.
What gets me down is sometimes I feel like I am a horse and buggy whip manufacturer watching more and more cars drive by my front door. Each day I seek to perfect my craft. While at the same time the need for my craft as it was originally understood is fading away.
Times have changed and continue to change at an alarming rate. Churches are closing. Those that remain open are graying. The cultural pull the church once had is lost. Worst still in the not so distant past even if a person themselves wasn’t interested in faith or the church chances are they felt positively towards the whole things. This is no longer the case.
There are of course individual churches that are pushing against this trend, but the tread remains. In the Western World Christianity is shrinking.There are days I go about doing what needs to be done to get ready for Sunday, wondering, and worrying, if I am destined to be a pastor who will lock many church doors for the last time.
This past week I attended Oasis. It is a sort of fusion between conference, retreat and business meeting spread over four days for Baptists in Atlantic Canada. I got the chance to hear from many of our denominational leaders and from our keynote speaker was author Philip Yancey which was a great treat. Everyone who had the opportunity to speak seemed to address this reality in their own way. I am walking away from this weekend feeling hopeful.
Let me tell you why. First it was simply great to hear so many people admit that we are facing a major problem. One that goes beyond PR, or music choice or any of our other little squabbles. While I still think we are betting at diagnosing than at curing but at least we are on our way. Second as Philip Yancey shared story after story it reminded me while our positional authority is gone we can still have relational connections with people if we are willing to work it them. Third we are doing a lot of good work all over the world and it doesn’t matter whether people flock to church because of it or not. For example CBM has launched a three year mission called ‘She Matters‘ to help girls in developing parts of the world get access to an education.
There is of course more that could be said. But for now, for me I am content to see the hope we have in these challenging times. Maybe I am witnessing the end of the church as I have known it. But I am more sure now that I am also watching the beginning of the church as I will know it.
*Some pastors take major issue calling what they do a ‘job’. I have no such hang ups. I do stuff, and I get paid for it which is pretty much the definition of a job.