There’s a lot of talk at the moment worldwide about the church of the future. There’s an endless amount of books, sermons, training programmes and conferences on the subject. As a minister I often feel a pressure to try and discern what this future church will be like and how best we can prepare for it. Over the summer, as I have been pondering this, I have come to the conclusion that there is a real danger that focusing too much on this elusive, future church can lead to resentment and discontent towards the church of the present. This I believe is very sad, even tragic. For what we have now is as beautiful and sacred as a church will ever be. People gather to worship Sunday by Sunday, babies are baptized, communion is shared. The bereaved are comforted, church groups offer fellowship and fun. Children and young people hear the good news that God loves them, and the vulnerable are supported. Yes- the church in the West may be going through a period of decline and change but God through his Spirit is still working through the church that continues to faithfully gather Sunday by Sunday.
Therefore we need to celebrate and see God at work in the many good things that are happening in the church right now. God loves his church as much as he has at any other period of history and we are called to do the same. During Jesus’ brief three year ministry every single moment mattered and he told people to open their eyes to the reality of God’s kingdom in their midst. Jesus didn’t point people to the Kingdom of God in the future- he pointed them to the Kingdom of God which was with them and within them, in the present. This holy and sacred realisation was liberating for the people and in turn allowed them to experience peace, hope and joy in their present circumstances.
So let us rejoice in our church of the present and trust God for the church of the future- for what we have now is good and God’s Spirit is breathing through it. Our church in the West may be smaller than previous decades, but it is still as precious and its message as powerful and life-changing as it ever was. Each day as we faithfully follow Christ- miracles happen, lives are transformed, hearts are set free, and new hope is realised. For the Kingdom of God is with us and within us, not in an elusive future church, but in the church of the here and now.