My oldest son loves playing with Lego blocks. He likes to build airplanes, cars, castles, and homes. He constructs small cities and develops complex story lines in which each Lego character plays an important role. It seems there is no end to his creativity.
My youngest son also enjoys Legos. But instead of building cities, he usually takes them apart. The destruction is not intentional. He does not set out to dismantle his brother’s work. It’s just the usual outcome of a four-year-old left alone with a Lego creation.
The cycle has played out in our home time and time again. The older brother builds it…. the younger brother destroys it. Understandably, this is very upsetting to our oldest son. He laments the destruction of his beloved creation, wishing the clock could be turned back. He demands justice against the perpetrator—suggesting a stint in time-out, or perhaps a life-time ban from Legos. Self-pity and cries for revenge rule the day, but none of it is helpful. His behavior usually continues until his mother makes a simple suggestion: rebuild it.
It is no secret that the Church in North America is in decline. Studies show a growing number of Americans giving up on organized religion, the Church’s influence on culture is waning, and those connected with the Church are less consistent in their attendance than previous generations. The signs of decline are real, and they are undeniable.
That truth can have an adverse effect on those of us left behind. Like an older brother we long for the good old days, wallow in self-pity, look for someone to blame, but none of this is helpful. In fact, all of it is contrary to who we were created to be.
1 Peter 2:9-10
The Apostle Peter writes, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
The days of seekers walking into our sanctuaries on Sunday morning to hear us declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light are over. But that does not change our calling. As a royal priesthood, a chosen people of God, we are charged with proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to those who do not know him.
If lost people will no longer come to us… then we must go to them. We must be willing to change the way we do church. Perhaps that sounds like blasphemy. Perhaps it sounds like I am suggesting that we kick down the walls of our beloved churches and scatter the pieces. Perhaps I am.
You see, the Church is not an altar, not a sanctuary, not a fellowship hall. We are the Church. We are the Church at work. We are the Church at play. We are the Church at rest. We are God’s chosen means to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ… and each one of us has an important role to play.
That does not mean that we give up meeting together. It does means that our faith cannot be confined to a building or an event on Sunday morning. We are God’s special possession created to engage the lost, to find them wherever they are—that they might be added to our number, built upon the chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
It’s time for the Church to be rebuilt, and that means some things will need to change. Each block might not be placed back exactly where it once was… and that’s ok. The Church can change. The Cornerstone cannot. Jesus Christ and his Word remain the same yesterday, today, and forever—relentlessly building, and occasionally rebuilding—pursuing the lost through those who have received his mercy.
It’s time to rebuild the Church. It’s time to become the sent missionary people we were always created to be.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.