Summary: How does a Church build community recognition while not falling into the world’s traps
General Motors in 1998 tried to sell us on the fact that “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Most people didn’t by it however and so there is still a threat that Oldsmobile will go the way of Wards and Kmart. What accounts for such radical changes in our economic world? Mikhail Gorbachev commented, “History punishes those who come late.” And he was right. You heard in the video how some youth tried to define words that those of us who were raised in the church should have no problem defining. Yet if you think this is only true of children think again. George Hunter III describes people today as “ignostic”, “they simply don’t know what the church is talking about with its insider language… The dilemma of the church is that those who know its words think they know what sin and salvation mean, and they are not interested. Those who don’t know the words aren’t interested in something they don’t understand.
Here’s the point…we, Kenton Presbyterian Church along with the other churches in North Portland and most of Oregon need to learn how to be “salt” and “light” in the 21st Century world. This isn’t going to be easy because for the church to be “salt” that is the preservative and season for a world that is rotten and bland we have to realize that the world’s taste in seasoning has changed. If the church is to be “light”, a city set on the hill, which offers hope, hearth and home to a world lost in darkness and danger we have to realize that the light sources in our world today are varied.
How do we begin this task? First we realize that no matter what changes has happened in our world, in our lives, in our community that Jesus is constant. Doesn’t matter what else happens Jesus’ love for the world is the same. He loves us with the same love he loved his disciples and he’ll love our great-great-great grandchildren. He loves us with the same love he loves those in Haiti, Latvia or China.
The hugeness of the change isn’t meant to discourage us. It’s an opportunity for God’s grace to shine brighter. It’s a matter of hope and promise all based on Christ’s word. Do you think the change seemed any less huge in 1544 when Gutenberg first produced the bible in print for the masses? Do you realize that our Bibles have only been with us less than 500 years? And even then only a few could actually read them. What changes do you think it meant for the church when the Presbyterians started educating everyone so that they could read the Bible?
Do you think it the change seemed any less huge when only a few years into this new movement Gentiles, those who didn’t know the history, of God’s work with humanity through Israel were suddenly becoming part of the Body of Christ (cf. Acts 15)? No change has always been disconcerting and what usually has happened when it comes about is that some of God’s people see God at work and join him in it. Others don’t and miss out on the wonderful changes that the Gospel brings to those in needs.
Secondly we need to seek to be the preservatives and source of comfort to all people and if that means changing to do it so be it. We need to adopt the attitude of Paul who became “all things to all people so that I might save some.” Did you know that Billy Graham is not using the word “crusade” in his speaking anymore? Why? Because of the connotation that it has for some people whom he wants to reach with the love of Christ. That’s the reason for the rise in gender inclusive translations of the Bible. It’s not so we can pray, “Our Mother” but so we can clearly understand that when Paul writes, “brethren” he means “brothers and sisters”. If you didn’t know it word usage does change over time. This past year the words phat (with a ph), tweener, and dead-cat bounce have been added to the Webster Dictionary.
We need to realize that the world that we want to reach with the great, unchanging news of God’s love doesn’t speak like we do, they don’t get their information like we do, and what we have offered in the past is seen as something that is less than enjoyable. Remember some of the statistics about your neighbors around here? 40% of the households have no faith involvement. 39% of the households are not WASPS. They aren’t white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The average age of the 57,000 plus people is only 34.9 years old. How many of us in this room are at or below the average? 45 % of them are single parent households.