BIRMINGHAM — “We may be living in the most precarious times in church history, but we are living in the greatest time of opportunity,” said Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, speaking during the Birmingham Baptist Association Ministers Conference on May 18 at Central Park Baptist Church.
Addressing “5 Critical Issues for the Church in 2015,” Rainer said, “God is not done with us. Let’s say to God that we are ready to start over. I will be bold in the presence of the community as we face” issues of culture, change, comfort, crisis and community.
In Zechariah 4, the temple of the Lord has not been built yet, but the foundation has been sitting there for 10 years, Rainer said. It is time to rebuild the house of God and Zerubbabel is the one to lead the effort. He can’t do it in his strength but by the spirit of the triune God.
But just like Zechariah and Zerubbabel, believers today also face discouragement and obstacles. “Many times we also find ourselves like them,” Rainer said — at the point of giving up because of five critical issues.
- Culture — “We have a tendency to say the culture is killing us. … Yes culture is shifting … but we have a God who is victorious over all, including culture.”
- Change — “This is an issue of deep pain for many in our churches. … It can cause all kinds of conflict.”
- Comfort — “[Less than half of our members] show up for worship on any given weekend. Something has happened in our churches where for many of the members membership is an entitlement to a country club-type of organization rather than a responsibility to serve the living God. When did it happen where membership shifted to — the church will meet all your needs rather than church membership being, ‘I will serve, go, give, sacrifice?’”
- Crisis — “The rate of church closures are at an all-time high and many are barely hanging on.”
- Community — “Nine out of 10 U.S. churches do not reflect the community in which they are located. If you don’t reflect the community in which you are located you have already become an island in the midst of a community looking for hope.”
“What if churches said, ‘We are here not to keep our doors open for the sake of keeping our doors open, but we are here for the community?’”
“We may be living in the most precarious times in church history, but we are living in the greatest time of opportunity,” Rainer said. “We can truly be the metaphorical salt and light.”
—Reporting by Jennifer Davis Rash, photo by Maggie Walsh