Is Your Church Spiritually Homeless?
I’ve written previously about continuous and discontinuous change and how that is affecting churches today. And while discontinuous change creates a feeling of disorientation and instability, this isn’t necessarily all bad for the church.
The Church is Spiritually Dislocated
Richard Sennet, in The Conscience of the Eye, says, “Judeo-Christian culture is, at its very roots about experiences of spiritual dislocation and homelessness.” In other words, God’s people have struggled repeatedly with discovering their identity and place in the world.
Today the community of God once again finds itself struggling to find its position in a society that is less hospitable to the church than it has been in the past. But it’s not unlike Israel’s exile in Babylon, which was a time of “spiritual dislocation and homelessness” for the people of God.
Israel's Spiritual Dislocation
In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and took captive a portion of Israel’s citizens (2 Kings 24:10-17). For seventy years, the people were in exile (see Jeremiah 29:10).
No doubt this was a period of great fear and uncertainty for the exiles. Nevertheless, as Alan Roxburgh puts it in The Sky is Falling!?!, “from the margins, after seventy years of painful theological work, came the reformation of Israel as a new, powerful, and more transcendent spiritual nation.”
An Opportunity for the Church
Today, the church again has the opportunity to emerge from this time of discontinuous change “as a new, powerful, and more transcendent spiritual” people. It won’t be easy. Lots of adaptive challenges confront our churches. But if we do the work of deep listening to God, our neighbors, and each other, and deep reflection on what we are learning, I believe we can discover an exciting new future for our churches.
How have you and your church experienced spiritual dislocation and homelessness in our world today? Are you hopeful about the church’s future?