A couple of years ago, at a Faithworks Conference in London, Brian McLaren said “The Kingdom of God is not about me but about transforming the world and everything in it“. This is not the first time I’ve heard that sentiment, but McLaren stated better than most. He went on to say that we put ourselves and getting to heaven at the center of our faith. And, unfortunately, we don’t consider what significance our faith has on the world around us. To that end, he said “We are not passive players conforming to the world but with transformed and renewed minds, we are agents of transformation”. This really seemed to raise the hackles of a few people in the blogosphere. Here’s the statement that upset them so: “The Kingdom of God is about God’s Kingdom being done on Earth. It’s not a plan of upward mobility and how we get to Heaven but about how God’s Kingdom comes down to Earth … it’s a downward movement.” I firmly believe the point of following Jesus should be to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, right here and right now, and not about sitting on a cloud with wings, halo and harp.
I suppose the whole idea of heaven works for some, but I find the idea a bit boring. Perfect joy, perfect peace? It sounds a little selfish to me. I mean, God gives us a magnificent gift and we take just so we don’t burn? I know it’s grace and completely unearned and all that, but shouldn’t we at least attempt to do something worthwhile with such an amazing gift? In the article that inspired this post, (on the Faithworks conference), the author wrote, “Christians, he (McLaren) said, have become “consumers of religious goods and services” who view the church as something that exists to fulfill their needs and house their soul until they went to Heaven.” If you want to know why church attendance is declining, this line of thinking has a lot to do with it.
In the Faithworks article, McLaren also said “Our theology is perfectly designed to produce the results we are now getting. If you want a change in results you need a change in theology,” This statement of McLaren’s mirrors a famous Einstein quote “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So, what are we doing over and over and yet expecting different results?
One of those things is excessive worrying about church attendance. Recently, I said (on Facebook) “I’m thinking churches should quit worrying about declining attendance and start worrying about being the damn church. Maybe then attendance might not decline.” The point isn’t numbers, it’s loving God and loving your neighbor. Work on that and let the numbers go to hell.