As a church, it can be easy to feel lost and therefore not sent by the Holy Spirit. But the church isn’t lost — it’s being sent in a different direction, participants at the NEXT Church gathering here heard March 31.
NEXT Church is a network of leaders across the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who believe that the church can be a faithful, fruitful, diverse and engaged church that shares the good news in a changing world. Through national and regional gatherings, an online presence, denominational conversations and local mission projects, NEXT aims to foster congregations, develop leaders and nourish strategies for a new vision of church.
Preaching from Luke 2: 41-52, the Rev. Alika Galloway recounted the story of the boy Jesus being “lost” in the temple in Jerusalem while Mary and Joseph headed home.
But Jesus wasn’t lost — Mary and Joseph were, said Galloway, executive director of Northside Women’s Space at Minneapolis’ Kwanzaa Community Church.
Galloway highlighted the differences between a technical problem and an adaptive challenge. A technical problem can be solved using logic and the resources at hand. An adaptive challenge, however, requires people to change their ways of being.
Mary and Joseph, like the PC(USA), faced both technical problems and adaptive challenges, Galloway said. Their adaptive challenge was how to address their son, who had changed.
In the PC(USA), we are faced with the same question. We hear whispers in church bathrooms and feel like crying at presbytery meetings. Something just doesn’t feel right.
“That’s where we are today,” Galloway said. “We come here lost. We come here hurt.”
As a connectional church, we can’t face these challenges alone. We have to go out together and find what we have lost.
“This sense of individualism is anti-biblical,” Galloway said. “We are not individuals. We are connected heart to heart, breast to breast.
“We are in conflict, but we cannot do this without creating conversation.”
Mary and Joseph couldn’t have returned to Jerusalem without creating conversation. Some surely questioned what kind of parents they were to have lost a child.
What kind of church are we to have lost members? Galloway asked.
“We must go back to the city, where it’s dangerous,” she said.
We must talk with all kinds of people to find our church, centering the conversation around the places of both hope and reality. We must listen and ask critical questions.
“When you are desperate, boundaries get crossed,” she said. “When you’ve lost something that’s precious to you, you will do anything to find it.
“Together, we will find that which is lost.”