Orientation To Change
Rapid and wide-reaching social changes will continue to influence Canada and Canadians. Whether we choose to resist them, advocate them, or ignore them, they will still come! The original development of the Church of the Nazarene in Canada was facilitated by the creative management of uncontrollable social change by our early leaders. Those leaders did not advocate social change nor did they resist social change; they simply saw, and responded to, the opportunities for ministry which were a consequence of social change. The future effectiveness of the Church will be significantly enhanced by adopting a strategy of flexibility in the face of such change. We must avoid the tendency to “experience change as loss.”
During the last quarter of the twentieth century the church was confronted with numerous technology driven changes. At the three-quarters point in the century the standard equipment in a typical urban church office likely included only a telephone, a typewriter, an electronic calculator and a mimeograph machine. The sanctuary equipment probably included an organ, a piano, and perhaps a sound amplification system with one or two microphones. Things have certainly changed.
An important point for the church to remember is that at its heart, the church must be “ministry driven,” not “technology driven.” In his 1983 book, Megatrends, John Naismith argued that in the face of “hi-tech” fads, institutions which maintain “high-touch” relationships will remain the most influential. Despite the siren song of technology, we must keep our faith relational and our evangelism incarnational.
The 51 percent of the population which has been largely “un-empowered” throughout church history has tremendous potential for positive leadership in the church of the future. The Church of the Nazarene, at the turn of the twentieth century, was “leading the pack” in recognizing, preparing, and deploying women in ministry. During the succeeding decades that priority shifted and Nazarenes abandoned that territory, reducing most women’s influence in the church to auxiliary and marginal roles. We need to design alternate strategies and programs for the education and training of women which will enhance their gifts, and aggressively develop strategies for their deployment in ordained ministry assignments, including positions of influence and power.
Immigration And Minorities
One of the axioms of church history is that “times of rapid and disruptive social change are the most productive times for the gospel.” For the near future, the most fruitful fields for evangelism and church development will be among new Canadians. The challenges which people face in adapting to life in a new country afford churches great opportunities to evangelize and assimilate new members.
The advances currently underway in the Church of the Nazarene in reaching the “new Canadian” population will serve well the church’s interest and the country’s interest. We need to strategically and aggressively develop an organizational infrastructure that recognizes, affirms and expands our ministry among immigrants but also facilitates and encourages their ascent into positions of leadership and power in the church.
Children And Youth
In contrast to the so-called third world, Canada is demographically, an aging society. The average age and the median age of our population continue to rise. Our governments face increasing pressure to accelerate immigration rates in order to meet labor demands. The church, in response to this change, will need to adopt a much more intentional approach toward evangelizing and disciplining children and youth. We can no longer assume that children coming to our churches have even a rudimentary knowledge of Christian thought patterns or Christian information. The “fund of knowledge” of children who will come to our churches will be lacking in “Christian,” and possibly even “Canadian” historical data. This shift will be both a challenge and an opportunity for the church of the future.
Churches which develop the ability to attract children and teach them the basics of Christian life and belief will have the greatest opportunity to influence Canadian society. If we wish to be that kind of church, we must teach and train our future leaders to focus on the “core” of the gospel, not the margins.
We need to develop an approach to the gospel message which is, at its most basic level, content centered not merely experience centered, and offered in an engaging, relational way.
While the issues which separate Christians will never go away, we need to minimize those matters in the everyday conversations of our faith, and give people a vocabulary of Christian expression which is inclusive.
by Clair MacMillan