I am spending most of this week away, leading a Bible study for one church in the Atlanta area and a Deacons’ retreat for another. The churches are different from each other in some ways. One is an old and venerable downtown church, located in the center of a mid-size town 40 or so miles from Atlanta. The other church, which has roots in an older congregation, is located in a fast-growing north Atlanta suburb. The downtown church has a new pastor; he’s been on the job less than two weeks. The suburban church has had the same pastor for more than 15 years. The demographics of the two communities and congregations are different from each other, as are the collective tone and “personality” of the churches.
Both, though, are moderate, thoughtful and solid churches; and both have a core group of committed, capable, and energetic leaders. And, what is striking is that both churches, like ours here in Asheville, face some common challenges:
1. Developing leadership among and for a new generation.
2. Teaching the Scriptures and the central truths of the faith to seekers and new Christians, while also continuing to nurture seasoned and experienced Christians.
3. Responding to the realities of a post-modern, post-Christian society, in which the default assumptions are “absolute relativism,” rampant consumerism (even when chastened by recession), and hyper-individualism.
4. Engaging in authentic, joyful, and reverent worship, rooted in the long history of the church, while reaching people who are saturated with the sounds and images of an entertainment culture and are unaware of the riches of Christian tradition.
None of these challenges is easy, but each is crucial and calls for our best thinking, praying, and strategizing.