Once there was a man who did and said such amazing things, people simply wanted to be with him. One day, they asked him who he was, and he answered them, "I am the Light of the world."
This is the way that storytellers begin stories about Jesus in the tradition of Godly Play, a Montessori-based Christian education program for young children. Helping children discover God through creative storytelling, art and imaginative play, children are not told so much about God as discovering God throughout their own experience.
It is a beautiful method.
I like to begin worship with children or youth. It is a beautiful way to begin the Great Thanksgiving.
I light a candle as Jesus answers them, "I am the Light of the world."
I had a stunning epiphany this week.
I desperately want to save my kids from the church.
Sounds drastic. Even to me.
I want them to know Triune God. I want them to know Jesus and want to live the way he lived. I want them to feel the Spirit drawing them toward places where their gifts and graces make a difference. I want them to love God and their neighbors. I want them to know the Light of the World.
I don't want them to know how petty, how hateful, how merciless the church can be.
I don't want them to have to dig through the rubble of a disintegrating institution to find God.
Because God isn't in the rubble.
Back in college, I took a class in bureaucratic theory (riveting, I know). I had never seen the word "bifurcate" before. That semester, I read it about a thousand times. To bifurcate is to splinter into two. think about what has happened to the church, from early communities that shared all they had including a profound witness for what Jesus had done in their presence, in their lives. We are destined to build and divide and splinter and compartmentalize until the purpose of the institution is fractured and indistinguishable.
I want to save my children from having to sort through all the pieces, trying to find the real meaning.
What if we could help younger people navigate past our bifurcations.
I was lovingly reminded by a friend that every generation reforms the church to meet its needs and expectations. Each generation clings to its reformed church, afraid that the next generation will destroy the church for all time. But with the expansion of technology and the resultant shrinking of the global society, the distance this generation has to reform to find relevance is light years more than any generational leap before it. Let that sink in...
What if some of us are called to reach out to that younger generation with hospitality to help the uncover the living God and their role in God's unfolding story? What if we are willing to stand with them as they seek God's relevance in the world they have inherited? Instead of assuming we had it right or best, what if some of us had real faith that God is bigger than any generation and let the story continue to unfold in the hands of the next generation, encouraging, supporting, empathizing?
What if we focused our efforts on saving this generation for relationship with God rather than for the survival of the church? That might mean rescuing them from our institutions, helping them find new growth and light than shines out in the world instead of in buildings or programs or models.