I missed a lot of school in the 2nd grade. Long story short, I had to repeat that grade the following year. I was now one year older than everyone else in my grade and I graduated at 19 years old. I continually beat myself up throughout the years because I felt lesser than everyone else because I was a year older. I wasn’t held back because I didn’t understand the content; I was held back because my teacher believed I wasn’t ready for the next grade, and I think he was right. I missed so much school that I fell behind and couldn’t keep up. More and more every day I am continually believing that the church is me in the 2nd grade. We miss so many of the concepts today that we fall behind and continue to repeat what we already know without making much progress.
Are We Stuck in the 2nd Grade?
Are we stuck in the 2nd grade? This is one of those subjective questions that I believe we can answer honestly either way. If you’ve been coming here since you were born, maybe you would say that we’re not stuck. You like things how they are and think we are making progress. This may be one of those topics that we differ on, but I think we’re stuck in the 2nd grade. You probably want specifics and that’s understandable, but you’re not getting them here. I will, however, give you one hint as to why I’m leaning toward this particular opinion: are we missing a generation? I’m sure you can think back to a time when this place was full of kids and young families. I stop to look at the big church family picture in the hallway often and I notice one thing every time: at one point, we had life and vitality. That picture is full of kids and young families in front of progress (not the new building per se, but the movement and growth happening). I also notice a lot of you in that picture. You probably had a little more hair in that picture and maybe it was a little less gray then, but I still notice you even though I was in a completely different state at that time. I also notice that most of you don’t wear the same clothes as in that picture. I’ll let you connect those dots.
Jesus Was Not Alone
When Jesus went around during his ministry, did he do everything by himself or did he have followers helping him out? Jesus had disciples, and though they messed up often, Jesus placed the gospel in their hearts to spread throughout the world. Christianity would have stopped when Jesus returned to heaven if it were only up to one person. Jesus had disciples who made disciples who made disciples and so on. If we are to be disciple making disciples, why is it that some of us believe all of the work is up to one, two or a handful of people to get the job done?
Message and Method
I don’t wear the same clothes as when I was 4 years old for several reasons; one: because they’re way too small now, and two: even if they did still fit me, the style has changed and so have my tastes. That’s the way of the world. The culture shifts and if the church doesn’t change with it, we’re going to stay stuck in the 2nd grade. This change is not a change in the message because the message will forever and always be Jesus Christ and him crucified, but method is fluid and changes with the times. While our message stays the same, we have the opportunity to use our method to reach those who need Jesus, but are we doing that to the absolute best of our abilities? I would like to say yes, but then I look at that picture in the hallway again. Maybe you need to have a look at that picture again. Our message is timeless and will continue to reach the hearts of everyone we bring it to, but our method needs a lot of work.
I don’t want you to read this in anger because I’m not typing in anger. I’m typing these words in passion and I hope that’s what you feel when you read these words and think about our church. If you truly think we’re not stuck in the 2nd grade, then I respect your opinion, but let’s examine our methods and make sure they’re making our message come across as best it can. All of us need to work together to make sure our message gets to everyone, and if our method is stopping us, let’s change our method.
The generation we’re lacking has not stopped coming to church all together, because I’ve been to churches where I’m surrounded by all generations. The generation we’re lacking isn’t coming because our methods aren’t reaching them. I want to see that life and vitality here. We can make that possible as long as we want to actually move on from the 2nd grade. People aren’t going to come to our church just because we have a youth minister on staff. I’m not trying to reason myself out of a job because I like you guys, but it’s the truth. We can’t buy things to make people want to be here. Our method needs to change to get that life and vitality through those doors once again. This will likely be a hard process because we’ve grown comfortable with how we do things, but it is necessary.
The 2nd grade was fun and all, but I’m done with it and moved on. Perhaps that’s something we need to do here to reach a new generation.