It seems that many (though not all) Protestant congregations these days are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety. Numbers are down...the median age is rising...buildings are in need of some extra attention...money is tight...and so on.
Good thing for us, Diana Butler Bass has something to say about it. She wrote a tremendous article (ok - I could have done without the self-promotional stuff) addressing the despair of the mainline church. Much of her comments are a response to Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek cover story about the demise of Christianity. Both articles are excellent and worth carving out some time to read.
Here are some of the money quotes from DBB's article:
Contemporary people care less about what to believe than how they might believe; less about rules for behavior than in what they should do with their lives; and less about church membership than in whose company they find themselves.
The old faith formulations were externally based, questions that could be answered by appealing to a book, authority, creed, or code. The new spiritual longings are internally derived, questions of engagement, authenticity, meaning, and relationship. The old questions required submission and obedience; the new questions require the transformation of our souls.
I also know the hope of possibility, for every crisis bears the promise of something new. Endings are also beginnings. Indeed, without death, resurrection is impossible. Imaginative, passionate, faith-filled people are enacting a new-old faith with Jesus and are working to change wearied churches. It is the season of resurrection, and resurrections always surprise.