Oh boy, where are we going? I noticed the headline (well, couldn't miss it) in the Baptist Times the week before last - 'Church decline over?' I know it was a discussion and I recognise there was a question mark, but we are so desperate to convince ourselves the projections aren't likely to happen. Frankly, this disturbs me.
What also concerns me is, as someone who's sometimes accused of being a naive optimist, I'm in danger of being cast in the grumpy old man pessimist, talk down anything good, mould. Our 20:20 vision questionnaire among our own churches is an attempt to get to, where I think most things start from, present reality. It's already interesting to hear people's responses to this.
Some are saying because they anticipate the future being bright, there's no need to think about such questions as where they're going because God will continue to lead them. I'm all for that on the one hand, but see churches frequently restricting growth because they've not facilitated more space, more leaders, etc. - anticipating further growth and development sounds too much like planning for some to grasp it seems. In the present climate of a reaction to anything which sounds modernistic, or management oriented, this is anathema.
Others are saying, it's a waste of time thinking ahead (we want to know where people think they'll be in ten years time - hence 2020) because In one particular response, 'planning for the future is a red herring for what we should be doing here and now.' In this case, there's a sense of present paralysis because surviving today is all that matters. In ten years time they wont be here!
The problem is the past, present and future are all actually linked together. Yesterday is the biggest predictor of what I'll be like today and today is the best indicator to how I'll act tomorrow. Character is forged not produced and so, it seems, are churches. Not surprising really as it's people, which make them up. The transition from organisation to organic is not proving to be a comfortable one.
The photo? This years holiday - sunrise, or sunset? Equally beautiful, but one brings the arrival of light, the other night.