I am old enough to remember dial phones, carbon paper, vinyl records, and hand-crank car windows. After school, I played sandlot baseball until dark. Today, many of these neighborhood diamonds sit empty while kids stare mesmerized into video game screens. When I was a kid, the service station attendant ran out to meet you at the pump, washed your windows and filled your car with gas, all for free. Times have changed.
After graduation from seminary, Carol and I made our way to our first church. The first time we saw Montrose, Colorado, and the parsonage was when we drove into town in the U-Haul truck holding everything we owned. I discovered the amount of my weekly salary after my first Sunday night service when the treasurer handed me the check. No on-site interview and visit, no salary package negotiations, no resume. Times have changed.
I remember when a faithful attender at church was there every Sunday, not two out of four. I remember when communities wouldn’t even think of having little league ball games on Wednesday night or Sundays: times reserved for church activities. It used to be that tithing was a concept understood by the majority of the community, and people looked on lying and cheating with horror, naturally assuming that it would result in eternal damnation.
In 2011, Lifeway Research reported that 46 percent of Americans never wonder whether they will go to heaven and 44 percent spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom.” David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me, a book about young adults drifting from the church, says that seven in 10 young adults don’t see much influence of God or religion in their lives at all.
Are you depressed yet? Be encouraged! Today is our day! God knew that you and I would be filling His pulpits and ministering in His name today! You are here for such a time as this. God must have great confidence in us. Of course, reality is changing ministry. Pastors must be creative in reaching families with the gospel. The church must adapt its methods—always looking for new ways to reach folks.
This issue of Grace and Peace is our attempt to help in this challenging effort. I am not frightened or downcast! Our world is ripe with opportunities for the church to become creative. The Church has always found relevance in the realities of culture—never watering down its message, but always providing fresh water for a thirsty world. G.K. Chesterton once calculated that the Christian church had come back from death on at least five historical occasions. He said, “Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”*
The Church of the Nazarene is alive and vibrant in the United States and Canada. God is helping us to be relevant and real to our world. I am so grateful for you and your ministry. I know it is challenging, but God is present. You are making a powerful difference in people. In the USA/Canada Regional Office, we are praying that you will find insight, encouragement, and new ideas in this issue—making your load lighter and your ministry more effective.
Pleased with the Prospects,
USA/Canada Regional Director