Change and Metanoia
The challenges faced by congregations in North America and Europe are different than those before congregations in the Southern Hemisphere and Asia. This is important to note because the changed required here looks and feelings different. These challenges in our context require a shifting in attitude and behavior which will not look like the behaviors and forms of our recent past. Make no mistake, the context around our building has already moved through major shifts in attitudes about Christians and Christianity (more negative), about acceptance of multiple beliefs and traditions (all equally valid), and value of church connection (no longer "the" place or even "a" place but "no" place they want to show up). Whether or not a congregation wants to change, the public ministry--or lack thereof-- already has changed either because of passivity to the change around them or a retrenchment to resist the change "out there."
Leaders and congregations have to look at change not just from the local view or even a systemic perspective, but also the biblical perspective on change. What is required of congregations and leaders is to embrace nothing less than a radical change of heart, mind and behavior. This is what Jesus calls every person to: metanoia...a radical change or turning of heart. We often translate this as "repentance" but this does not capture the meaning of the Greek word. This change or turning, is not dictated by the outside forces but by the power of the Spirit working in, through and with the church. Metanoia is accomplished by God's extraordinary presence and power at work in the world and us, as well as through our collaboration with what the Spirit is already doing. This turning finds expression in five ways: turning TO God; turning FROM sin; turning INTO scripture; turning WITH each other; and, turning TOWARD the world.
Keeping God and Christ at the center of how we address the challenges is the cornerstone. Without this in the center of all we do, it will not matter. Recognizing our own brokenness and disconnection from God, each other and ourselves while trusting deeply in the promise of healing and God’s saving power with us now opens us to new hope and possibilities of what possible. We cannot do this alone… we need that living, incarnate Word in the Body of believers, the scripture and our sacramental life (which is more than just Baptism and Communion) and we need to walk with each other. And it has to be toward and for the sake of the world.
As leaders and congregation live into the work of these challenges, it is us who must be changed and transformed to engage the world with the Gospel.