This is this week's addition of "the Shaping of the Church" that is intended to create some dialog regarding the focus and potential direction of churches in an American context.
I have been talking a lot about the need for change in churches and my personal desires to be a part of something that feels different from the same old story. In fact, it is not difficult to find people roughly my age and background saying the same things and longing for something new.
Before I mislead you into thinking that everything to do with the "Western Church" as we know it is bad and that everything new is good, please allow me to say that I am grateful for the Western Church. Throughout the history of the "Western Church", we have seen some terrible things happen but we have also seen some amazing things happen.
Lets face it, how many millions of people have received food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and love throughout the entire world as a result of Western Churches. When our federal government was locked in bureaucracy after Hurricane Katrina, it was the Church there meeting needs. When racial hatred continued in the south, it was the churches (not all I admit) that joined in the cry for justice and civil rights. How many people have felt completely hopeless and ready to give up on life until followers of the risen Jesus (from the Church) meet them and love with the unconditional love of God.
Turning to less practical matters, it is the Western Church that encouraged the dialogue between science and theology. It is this same church driven by "baby boomers" that pushed the limits on acceptable worship and paved the way for a new generation of new churches. The Church has forced mainstream culture to wrestle with how to expand the message of tolerance even to those with religious convictions. It is the Church that has delivered messages of hope and practical advice for daily living.
The Church that people like me want to resist and reform is not all bad and still offers hope and guidance to millions of followers today. I do believe that millions more exist who are hungry for meaning in life who have not been able to find that meaning in or traditional churches and who are more likely to in a new church, but let us not be so naive as to believe that everyone will like a new approach.
This new style of church that I talk about often appeals to people because it comes with the promise of really accepting people no matter where they are at in their own spiritual journeys. But that acceptance must also include accepting those who lead and who attend the "Traditional Western Churches" that we are challenging. The truth is that we all have different tastes and styles, and as long as Churches (old and new) live the message of Jesus and seek the priorities of God, I don't care what style is used. As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, the good news being spread is what matters to me. So thank you traditional western churches for your years of pursuing the truth of the scriptures. May we stand side by side in our efforts to show the world the love of God and to actually be a part of blessing the world through our lives... but you can keep the Starbucks cafe in your lobby, I don't really want it.