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New Faith for a New Year

Rev. CHRIS PASSANTE

Whether we care to admit it, the Church has changed.

Church leaders have been prognosticating long before the pandemic that we’ve been in liminal times, when what used to be is no longer and what is to be isn’t yet apparent.

Those praying that if we just wait it out, things will return to normal are in for a shock: US church attendance has been halved since 2000, and for the first time, people identifying as Christians fell below 50 percent, according to a Gallup survey.

This decline is compounded by the pandemic that began in 2020 and greatly affects the church two years later — with no ending in sight.

Many propose that if we change worship styles, add more small groups, and invite families, the Church will rebound. But those methods — while they have a place — have not been working well for the last two decades. Others blame parents who don’t bring their kids to church, those who work Sundays, or denominational issues as reasons attendance has dropped. The opinions are not without merit, but we must look inward at the Church and not only outward at those who once shared in worship and mission.

We cannot build the Church’s future by living in the past. And it’s here where liminality becomes frustrating: We want answers, but, again, what used to be is no longer and what is to be isn’t yet apparent.

This is a time to lean into our faith and trust that if we’re really listening to God and praying about the church’s future, God will show us a way.

But we also know that we are fearful of stepping across the threshold with the faith that God requires. Isn’t this the same picture we see of the Hebrews walking across the desert, questioning why God has brought them there?

You will know that he is the one who brought you out of Egypt. You have been complaining about the Lord, and he heard you. So tomorrow morning you will see the Glory of the Lord. –Exodus 16.7

There was no way the Hebrews could return to where they came from (Egypt), yet they had no idea of what lay ahead. They finally realized that because they couldn’t go back to what was, and what would be wasn’t yet apparent, they had to trust God.

The same is true for the Church today: God will make a way, just as God always has. But the question comes down to our faith: Will we pine for what we cannot return to, or faithfully embrace what God has for us — even if it’s not yet apparent,?

The Church isn’t in jeopardy; it’s in flux. And God is calling us on a pilgrimage in which we either move forward in faith or become spiritually stagnant.

Which will you choose?

— — — —

Christopher Kostyn Passante is lead pastor at Mount Nittany Church in State College. Contact him at cpassante@susumc.org.

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