“Even if Jesus were to return tomorrow I would still plant a tree today.”
While the future is uncertain we know the goal is already achieved: new life in Christ. I think we sometimes feel the uncertainty of the future is potentially destabilizing for the church. Its evident many churches feel uncertain how traditional values and practices fit in a modern world. But, that also describes 6,000 years of Christian/Hebrew history.
It is true, though, that our post-(post-?)modern world is experiencing change more rapidly than any other recorded time. Exponential world changes have happened in just the past decade (internet, technology, mobiles, social media). This creates a felt disconnection between generations. We hear the evolutionary term ‘adapt or die,’ and this is echoed in the business world, in medicine, in technology, and so on. But here the church is unique, as an organization we do reflect the world we live in, but our identity is not based in organization, but rather in relationship.
Churches are unique in today’s world because they break the norm – following Jesus is following the ultimate anti-norm. In a world bent towards individuality and financial success, the church as the body of Christ remains a constant in healing hearts and making disciples. Yes, the church is in flux inasmuch as Christians are people in a world in flux. But the role of the church will always be the same: to be the people of God, to be in relationship with each other, and with Him. In the words of the parable of the sower, while we sow the seed of Christ in people’s hearts it is God who waters and grows them up. We disciple. We train. We send out. We are the light, and the light exposes the darkness. We are in community to serve the community, and yet also in need of God’s salvation and ministry ourselves; we stand with the community and the world in need to Christ.
The church’s job is never finished. As Christians are called out of the world and set apart for Christ, we are also called back into the world to do the work of Christ. With the Spirit we continue His work in the world: ministering. Local churches fulfil so much spiritual and practical imagery: shepherding the flock, sowing the seed, being still waters. The local church constantly seeks to find the lost, yes, but also to disciple and minister to every neighbour. The hungry, the sick, the injusticed, the hurting, these are the people we are to tend to, and we are these people at one time or another. We plant seeds any and everywhere, but we leave it to God to produce fruit.
We are in the world, and so we must always come to people of the world through the world, but in doing so we also bring the Spirit with us, and even if only for a brief moment people get a glimpse of heaven, of the divine, through us. How? Whatever it takes, we forgive as Christ forgives, heal hurts and hearts, we are all things to all men for His glory.
Humans are constantly changing as individuals and as larger social cultures. The church, as people, will always be in flux because people are always in flux. But our future is far from uncertain; we live today in the hope of that which is yet unseen, but we are no less certain that it is real. Indeed, we know our future is nothing less than eternal life in Christ.