“The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails” – William Arthur Ward
I confess I don’t know very much about sailing, but this I do know: the wind is what pushes you forward, and you need to keep adjusting the sails in order for forward movement to be achieved.
The quote I have above is very poignant given the state of the church today. It seems I keep having the same conversations over and over and over again, “The world has changed, the church is being left behind.” Everyone has an opinion on it, even people who have never darkened the door of a church.
But what I hear and what I see are two different things. People offer solutions, they offer ways in which to make the church more relevant in society, but their actions sound like the first two actions in the quote. They either complain about how no one takes the church seriously anymore, or they somehow expect that all of a sudden society will turn in their favour and the church will once again be overflowing like it was 50 years ago.
They are pessimists and optimists. I’m not encountering a lot of realists.
It seems a lot of people don’t think things need to change. They think what worked 50 years ago, when it was a social obligation to go to church, is what will work today. As a result we are closing churches faster than we can count, and not just rural churches.
The church needs to regain is purpose, it’s mission, in the communities it serves. The church needs to stop just having worship and studies and dinners all for its own members and get out into the community to show where its priorities lie (note I did not say stop doing these things, I said “just” these things).
If we want the church to be seen as relevant, then we need to be relevant. We need to follow the examples of the first Apostles and the early church. They went out into the streets, sharing the message of the risen Christ, the love of God, and touched people’s lives. Then what happened? The church exploded with new members.
If we keep doing things the way we have always been doing them, then we might as well turn off the lights.
Getting back to the quote, the wind has not stopped. When a sail boat wishes to change direction, it must adjust the sails so that it can capture the wind from its new direction. The church has stopped adjusting its sails. The wind is blowing all around us, yet we aren’t moving.
As a people who live after the Spirit of God came to the Apostles in the form of a violent wind on Pentecost, we are simply watching the wind blow, and cursing its ineffectiveness. Just because it blew us where we are, doesn’t mean we can’t turn the boat around and let the wind blow us in a new direction.
Let’s get out of our churches and show the communities in which we live that we really care about what Jesus has done and continues to do, and let him touch lives through our sharing.