September 27, 2011

what people are looking for

I don't really fit the theological camp that Good News Magazine is written for, but I do try to read it when it arrives in my mailbox to broaden my theology and to better be in dialogue with other United Methodists; and the fact is, frequently there are good articles in the pages. The article by Jason Vickers "Renewal in an age of Anxiety" has some great stuff in it (it doesn't look like the on-line version is available yet, otherwise I'd link to it). I especially appreciated these thoughts:
"The truth is that we do not need more demographic or generational studies to figure out what people are looking for. In the midst of workplaces full of resentment and hostility, people are searching for love. Surrounded by anxiety and depression, people are looking for joy. Amid the violence and insanity of city streets and war-torn countries, people are searching high and low for peace. Faced with spouses and co-workers who lose their tempers at a moment's notice, people are looking for self-control. Amid rampant road rage, people are in desperate need of patience. Against the backdrop that is the harshness and cruelty of the evening news, people will inevitably be drawn to churches that exhibit gentleness and kindness in every aspect of their lives. Over against the gospel of pervasive pessimism about human nature and human communities, people will be drawn to church that proclaim and embody a gospel of transformation and holiness.
 "Conceived along these lines, the real question for the church is not whether we can get people to come to church in the first place. The real question is whether, upon coming, they will find compelling reasons to return time and time again.
"People will not be drawn to and held captive by the church simply because it carefully preserves and maintains its long-standing structures. Nor will they be drawn to and held captive by the church simply because it is part of a prophetic movement aimed at renewal or reform. Rather, people will ultimately be drawn to and help captive by the church when they discover in the church something they cannot readily get anywhere else, namely a community that embodies in readily discernible ways the mind of Christ, the theological virtues, and the fruits of the Spirit. In other words, they will be drawn to and held captive by those churches that bear the marks of incorporation into the Trinitarian life of God. Short of this, people may come to the church for a season, but they will ultimately look elsewhere for their salvation."