crying over spilled milk

One of the most frustrating things for me in the Church is when we get caught walking into stuff because we’re trying to walk forward while looking backward. You know how it goes –

“I wish it was still that way.”
“Remember when it was easier?”
“I miss the good old days.”

spilled-milk-car-237x270All of those sentiments are okay – really they’re just a form of grieving and we need to let people/leaders do that or it will work itself out in other ways – but it’s not super helpful corporately for doing what we really need to in the Kingdom of God. Namely, that is helping to increase the fame of our God and help move people from where they are to where God wants them to be through relationship with us and relationship with Him.

This past week, I watched a bunch of my pastor friends jump on this article about how the United States is becoming a nation of singles. Lots of comments like “what a shame” or “we need to re-educate people about how the nuclear family is supposed to work”. And at some level I agree. At some level I really, really agree – I lament the loss of the nuclear family as the centerpiece of our society – I lament the loss of fathers for a significant portion of the population – I lament the loss of people becoming so individualistic that having children or not having children is completely about them.

But,

if we’re so busy looking at the present and lamenting how it is worse than the past, we will never make the kind of impact as the Church that’s needed in our society. At some level and at some point, we need to quickly lament the ever-increasing brokenness of our current cultural context and then jump into the present neck-deep.

Part of the problem is that even the most “relevant” of churches is still generally at least 10 years behind cultural family trends either consciously or subconsciously. Some of that is because we want to be like the ostrich with our head in the sand, hoping things will improve magically, but some of it just because Christian moral norms tends to keep our families from breaking apart as quickly as those families around them (but only by a nose).

But if we keep thinking of marital status, family structure and sexuality in a way that is simply descriptive of our own reality or prescriptive for where we want the world to be, we’ll often miss the world’s reality one way or another.

I ran into this article the other day about a church that ministers to porn stars at sex conventions. That’s crazy, it’s nuts – it’s risky – but it’s reality to a lot of people. I know in my own church/community situation, my wife and I’s wait-for-sex-til-your-one-life-long-heterosexual-marriage thing is so inconsistent with the vast majority of people I talk to. That doesn’t mean that I compromise what Scripture calls me or us to, but it does mean that I talk differently, I confront differently and I disciple differently. I think that should probably be the norm, not the exception.

I think our churches would look much differently if, when we talked to singles, families and people who live in a highly-sexual world, we stopped focusing on prescribing the past and started speaking/living into the present.

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