To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours. –I Corinthians 1:2

Paul was writing to a group that sometimes was divided, sometimes together but not clear about who or what the church was. Paul was writing to a time when some had strong understandings of membership and fellowship and others had no or little understanding of that. Paul was writing to a divided people. And he set forth one truth of the Gospel— the Church is all those sanctified (that is washed clean and made holy) by Christ, those Christ calls to be holy, and those in all places and all cultures and all colors and all back-grounds who call on Jesus. Who defines the church? God does. We in America are so used to making our own decisions. Many even think they are the ones who choose to be a part of the church. The truth is not that way. Will we listen?

We are in a culture of anxiety—so few choose the church we say. The most recent statistics say only 25% of Americans attend church, synagogue, or mosque on any given week (2014 US Census). “The church is dying” is what I hear many times. Well, let’s be clear—although the amount of folks that claim membership in the church is declining and the number of folks who claim no affiliation is growing, Census data from the early 1900s until now says that roughly 25-29% of peo-ple are worshipping in any given week in a corporate manner. Many more claimed to be part of the church than actually were worshipping and being the church. And roughly 10-12% of THOSE that worshipped are active in a congregation’s programs or life in any given week, again since 1900! It has not changed significant-ly since 1900! Why do we fret? Well, you say, it’s the youth—there used to be so many. Well, folks have been tracking that since 1970—the number of youth in youth programs has indeed decreased from 87% to 31%.

But the number from outside the church (not kids of members) has stayed the same (roughly 1% since 1935) But here is a staggering thing to think about—the number of youth who were active until 18 but by 20 have dropped out of the church continues to be 65%. So even being active in the church as a teen is not likely to keep one in church. And since 1970, the participation in weekly services of those that did remain affiliated or came back is similar to the overall population—about 23-25% come weekly.

So who is the church? Several modern day theologians say that we as a church have focused on the wrong things (number, money, size) and thus grown anxiety instead of mission. The Book of Order says the congregation is to be “engaged in the mission of God in its particular context” (G-1.0101). So, let me ask—do we know what God’s mission is? Here’s a hint, “Love kindness, do justice, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8) and “Go into all the world and disciple folks, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus has chosen and sanctifies and calls us to work with all the church (all those everywhere). Membership is not a privilege but a response to God’s love. Instead of looking to numbers or bemoaning that which has actually been this way since 1900 at least, let’s get busy with the mission of God.

Do you sow kindness to everybody, friend and foe, member or not? Do you work to make this a loving and kind community. Working with all those who call on Jesus?

Do you do justice? Stand up and be vocal about what is right? Point out what is wrong? Get involved instead of just grumbling?
Do you humble yourself before God? Do you listen and be open to other ideas and ways God is telling us what is right or wrong? Do you do take time to worship and pray and get connected and stay grounded in the Word? Do you know it’s God’s mission?

- Pastor Tim

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