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Christianity is Changing and You Know It

Christianity is changing and you know it. You feel it. You see it. As the world embraces more and more behaviors and perspectives that are counter to God’s Word and God’s created order, we can have one of two responses: one, run away, protect ourselves and our children, denounce the culture, and hide behind our church walls. Or we move in love to listen and care for our neighbor, crossing to the “other side” to try to meet our neighbor where they are with the love of Jesus.

I have presented an either/or, binary scenario. Want to hear the truth? BOTH of these postures must rest on the heart and mind of the disciple of Jesus. On the one hand, we must protect our children, and rest upon the never-changing Word and Law of God. The church should be a place set apart for both Law and Gospel to be spoken, heard, and lived out in the lives of the baptized.

On the other hand, we must recognize that those who have believed the lies of our culture are NOT our enemy. In fact, they are loved by God. Our enemy is sin, death, and the Devil. We are in a spiritual battle. The Devil’s days are numbered. The crucified and risen Christ is soon to return. We know it, we feel it. Come, Lord Jesus, come, and find us faithful with lamps full and burning when You do.

I recently started reading the book “The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and

Why” by Phyllis Tickle written in 2008, the year I was ordained as a pastor in the LCMS. It is an absolutely prophetic read.

The book highlights how about every five hundred years, over the past 2000 years of Christian church history, the church “feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale.” (p. 16) The three major shifts in Christianity are, one, the 6th century “Fall of the Roman Empire” or “The Coming of the Dark Ages.” Church leaders like Gregory the Great held the church together, largely through the monastic movement. Two, the 11th century brought about “The Great Schism” between the Western and Eastern church. Finally, we’re all well aware of the major shift brought about by “The Great Reformation” of the 16th century. Pick up the book to learn more details about these great shifts in the Christian church.

About every five hundred years the “empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at the time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur.” When this happens history shows us three consistent results or corollary events.

1. “A new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge.” This is quite encouraging. The Church will last. The gates of hell cannot stand against the uniting movement of Christians under the cross of Christ.

2. “The organized expression of Christianity which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.” (Emphasis added.) Tickle identifies how the church is blessed with “two new creatures” where there once had been one, and in the process, the formerly existing “creature” is blessed.

This has radical implications for the LCMS today. The “former creature” is our current churches, made up of laity, church leaders, and pastors - all of the baptized gathering consistently to receive Word and Sacrament. The “former creature” are our institutions (Universities and Seminaries), preschool through high schools, Recognized Service Organizations, and the infrastructure of Synod made up of leaders in St. Louis and the deployed 35 districts and circuits of the LCMS. This “former creature” is an immense treasure for the church! Praise be to God!

At the same time, a “new creature” is emerging through various people and entities longing to be associated with the LCMS (think the ULC and LINC, and FiveTwo, among others). This “new creature” is highly focused on lay leadership development, new ways to develop leaders who are faithful to the Gospel and carry Word and Sacrament to their communities that go beyond brick and mortar existing churches. This “new creature” delights in new church expressions, including multi-sites, micro-churches, micro-schools, missional communities, and churches connected to for-profit ventures. This “new creature” has a high tolerance for risk with an entrepreneurial spirit.

We all recognize the Christian church is changing. The big question is whether leaders will stand up who desire the “former creature” to be blessed by the “new creature,” and in turn, both of them will thrive into the next season of the life of the church in the world. Such leaders will need to become adept at understanding how growth, both in congregations and synod, occurs in such a season of change. Two things must take place at the same time - the “former creature” must learn to work with the “new creature.” I yearn to see this day all for the sake of the elevation of the name of Jesus!

Here is the final result of the Christian church changing.

3. “Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread - and been spread - dramatically into new geographic and demographic areas, thereby increasing exponentially the range and depth of Christianity’s reach as a result of its time of unease and distress.” (p. 17)

Now is the time for LCMS churches, pastors and presidents and leaders to recognize the time in which we live. Secularism is firmly here (Budweiser and Target, anyone??). The satanic attack on the nuclear family is real. Political division is immense. Mental illness is sweeping through our culture like a social contagion, especially amongst our young. The world needs a confessing church on mission to bring the hope of Jesus to the masses. The LCMS must stay united, respect our various contexts, and understand that this is an amazing time to be the church…especially if the “former creature” will love and embrace the emerging “new creature.”

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Pastor Tim

Your comments reflect an urgency that is needed but also What you are describing is exactly what happened after the resurrection. The Christian Church grew rapidly and the Pagan worship declined Empire

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