“When I’m grown, I shall be, just as fine a copy as he!”
These were the words of my very first piano piece when I was five years old. Thinking back on this early memory, a traffic cop is the perfect analogy for how the Spirit of God might be guiding and directing Christians who are navigating through an important intersection in the life of the church. I know without a doubt that I could not be “as fine a cop” as the One who sees beyond our current intersection. None of us could! But, as Christians, we spend a good deal of time thinking that we are qualified to direct other people on behalf of God.
Church history reveals continuous splits and divisions which all occurred at major intersections in the church’s life. This time, however, something different is swirling in the spiritual air. Something more powerful is taking place—something that is larger than previous church divisions, greater than the Christian faith itself, and more complex than all major religions combined.
Make no mistake about it.
It’s a God thing!
God’s Spirit is actively directing traffic at this intersection! The Spirit is stopping some people and intentionally holding them at red lights! Other people are moving cautiously forward on a blinking yellow light, while a small number of people are zooming through the intersection on green! Why? What is happening?
More than we can possible realize—God’s Spirit is in full control of the traffic at this major intersection in the Christian journey through time!
Some people ask, “Why doesn’t God intervene?”
I say, “Open your eyes! God is in the middle of the intersection!”
Is it possible that God’s Spirit is dividing the Christian Church for reasons far beyond that which our limited minds can grasp? Yes!
As attendance polls reveal a mass exodus from the institutional walls of the church of yesterday, millions of hearts are awakening from spiritual slumber. The church of yesterday is uneasy about the future. A genuine concern over the church of tomorrow is expressed at nearly every gathering of God’s people.
Well—that’s not entirely true!
People who are part of a booming megachurch environment, or a thriving inner-city church that can finance staff and programming, or the small community churches that preach the conservative view of the inerrant word of God, or the liberal congregations that are rapidly gaining membership—all are having a different conversation. Their numbers are not declining as rapidly. For this reason, some people say, “Look at what we are doing, and model yourselves after us! We are obviously on the right path because we are thriving!”
God’s Spirit is in the middle of our intersection directing traffic!
We have no authority to say, “Look at us!” It is God who is in control!
The church of tomorrow will not look like anything like the church of yesterday or today. God’s Spirit is directing traffic at this intersection because it is time for the institutional model of the church to collapse. However, it must be a controlled collapse. It cannot occur as a catastrophe! The church’s institutional model must implode over generations for the sake of those whom God is NOT calling upon to create or build up the church of tomorrow.
That’s right! Not all are called to the future mission of the church!
Let us have patience with one another.
Let us understand the traffic lights at this intersection, why they exist, and what purpose they serve.
The Red Light
Conservatives conserve. That’s what they do! These are the people God’s Spirit is holding at red lights! Let them stay where they are. Let them preserve the traditional model and the traditional teaching of the church until God’s Spirit changes the light for them. Let them believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. Let them hold tight to yesterday. God is using them in mighty ways during the imploding process! God isn’t finished with them yet.
The Yellow Light
Many will migrate away from the institutional walls of the church because that’s what migration is all about. These people will hurt as they leave the church behind. They will be angry. They will bad-mouth the institution that has betrayed them and let them down! They will be hesitant to ever step foot in a church building again! That’s okay. Comfort them. Hold their hands. Help them know that God has something better in mind for the church of tomorrow. Encourage them to have faith in what they cannot see or understand in the midst of immense spiritual climate change. Offer them hope and help them heal.
The Green Light
Finally, the progressives will forge ahead through every green light God’s Spirit puts in front of them. They will liberate in limitless ways! Let them liberate. That’s what liberals do. Let them upset the church’s theological apple cart. Let them tear apart the Bible! Let them reimagine the church, reinterpret sacred text and discover new and fresh ways to see the face of Jesus. Let them be reckless for a time. Let them dream of a better tomorrow. Let them preach peace, unity, hope, love and inclusiveness. That is what God’s Spirit is calling them to do.
Thoughts along the way,
SUBSCRIBE Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow