I confess, I am a cheater. I am a peeker.
When I read a book I will frequently sneak a peek at the last page to see how it ends. Not right away of course, but as I get going I will sometimes flip the book open near the end and see if anything catches my eye. While reading the Harry Potter book this summer I got a little worried at times and glanced toward the back to see if he was still kicking. Well I won’t give away the end but I did see the word ‘Harry’ on p. 691 so I breathed a sigh of relief.
I heard a saying this week that I have heard before, “The church is just one generation away from extinction“. I know what is intended by this phrase but I think the meaning can get garbled in times like these. It is true that each generation must take the responsibility of passing on it’s faith to the next generation very seriously. This precious gift that is mine needs to become precious to my children as well.
I have however heard this phrase kicked around more recently as a descriptive proverb rather than a prescriptive one. ‘The church is one generation (read 25 years) away from extinction. If we don’t do something about this there won’t be any churches left!’
While we do live in a fallen world and living as Christ’s ambassadors to that world can be a trial sometimes, I think we can get an over inflated sense of our role in the redemptive process: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.” Eph 2: 8-9
We carry this gift to the world. We did not make it; we didn’t even wrap it.
When I get concerned about where the church, the bride of Christ (see Eph. 5: 25 – 27) is going I have flipped to the end of another good book and checked to see how it turns out:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Rev. 19: 7
“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. Rev. 21:9b – 10
Paul also teaches in 1 Thess. 4: 13 – 18 how it will be for those who are believers when Jesus returns. Rest assured, the church will still be around when Jesus returns. This leads me to a sobering conclusion then: If indeed our church is going to disappear in the next 25 years one of two things is going to happen.: Jesus will return in the next 25 years (hurray!) or we are not His church.
Forms will come and go but the truth of Jesus Christ and the community of the redeemed will last forever. As circumstances require, let us continue to grow and adapt, and become his church; today, and forever.