In his wonderfully hopeful and challenging book, A Future That’s Bigger Than Our Past, author Sam Wells, the vicar of St. Martin in the Fields Church in London, begins by stating what we all know to be true, which is that the Church is changing.
The Church is changing because the world is changing. This book was published in 2019 and the cultural shifts he describes have only accelerated over the past three years due to the pandemic. Wells is speaking of the wider church, but of course local congregations feel evidence of this change in different ways as well.
Now, change in and of itself is not bad, and is often a very good and essential thing. The problem, Wells argues, is that we’re not changing in the ways we need to change, and we’re not changing with purpose and direction. In fact, in many ways, we’re not choosing to change, we’re simply reacting to the changes we see and feel around us. That needs to change.
In order to meet the challenges of the present moment, Wells argues, and I agree, churches need to begin thinking critically and imaginatively about some of the most basic questions before us: Why is the church here? What is our purpose?
When we do this, he says we will likely come up with different answers than even a generation before. We may even surprise ourselves.
And we will likely find that our current structures—our programming, our calendars, our buildings—are actually in service of some previous version of the church and not our present.
He says this situation raises two critical questions: How do you feel about this? and What are you going to do about it?
As we continue to emerge from perhaps the most disruptive period in our lives, we will ask these questions together in worship and on Wednesday nights, and combine our imaginations to seek a vision of our shared future rooted in abundance and hope.
This series will lead us into our stewardship season when we will make critical decisions about our future together. It will also provide some context for a new committee the congregation approved this past week in conference that is charged with creating a master plan for our facilities.
We’ll need to think creatively about our resources and how we can use them to secure financial stability for future generations of the First Baptist Church of Christ to live out our unique and vital mission within our community.
Will our future be bigger than our past?
This is a challenging question for a church as old and with as rich a history as ours. The hard news is that the answer is largely up to us and our willingness to follow the Spirit as it moves.
Or is that the good news?