“Traffic Go! Traffic Stop! All Must Heed the Traffic Cop! When I’m grown, I shall be, just as fine a cop 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 this 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 are qualified to direct traffic flow! Only God’s spirit can do the job! But, as Christians, we spend a good deal of time thinking we are qualified to direct other people, on behalf of God.
Church history reveals continuous splits and divisions. Such divisions always occurred at major intersections in the church’s life. However, this time something different is swirling in the spiritual air. Something more powerful is taking place—something 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 in this intersection! The Spirit is intentionally holding some people at red lights! Other people are moving cautiously forward on a blinking yellow light. A small number of people are zooming through this intersection on green! Why? What is happening?
Some people wonder, “Why doesn’t God intervene?”
I say, “Open your eyes! God IS in the middle of this intersection!”
Is it possible that God’s spirit is intentionally dividing the body of Christ at this time? Could the divisions be for reasons our limited minds just can’t grasp? Yes!
As attendance polls reveal an exodus from the institutional walls of the church of yesterday, millions of hearts are awakening from spiritual slumber. A genuine concern, over the church of tomorrow, is expressed at nearly every gathering of God’s people.
Well—Okay. 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, are not feeling concerned. The small community churches that preach the conservative view of the inerrant word of God, or the liberal congregations that are rapidly gaining membership, are also not concerned.
Therefore, every congregation is having a different conversation based on their attendance levels, or financial security. Congregations, not declining are quick to 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 directing traffic in the middle of our intersection!
We have no authority to say, “Look at us!” It is God who is in control!
The church of tomorrow will not look anything like the church of yesterday, or today. It’s 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 slowly, over many generations, for the sake of those whom God is NOT calling upon to build the church of tomorrow.
That’s right! Not all are called to be the builders of the future image of the church! For this reason, we must have patience with one another.
I have a theory about the traffic lights at our current spiritual intersection. I think I understand why they exist, and what purpose they serve. So, here’s my theory.
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 teachings of the church, until God’s spirit changes the light for them. Let them believe they are right, and everyone who doesn’t agree with them, 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 during this time. People will hurt as they leave the church behind. Many will be angry. In their anger, 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. Don’t blame them for proceeding with caution as they migrate into unknown spiritual territory. 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. Help them heal.
The Green Light:
Many people will speed through every green light God’s spirit puts in front of them. They will liberate themselves, and others, 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 drive recklessly 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.