I recently saw a reference to the work of a German Christian journalist on the future of the Church, so I decided to check out some of his ideas. Rather than telling people how the church could be more relevant, the journalist looked at historical trends and the current world. For him it was clear that the church was in decline in the “western world”, particularly in Europe. Periods of decline and renewal had happened before, but this time it might be more severe. He thought that this decline would continue for another generation, but that there were clear signs of hope that indicated that Christian renewal could well occur around the middle of the century.
Those signs of hope included the increased commitment of Christians, the renewed quest for meaning in personal life, and the increased tendency to anger in the world, to which the Christian faith can respond. In that case we might be handing on our faith particularly to children not yet born, when God can do new things in the world.
I wondered what that might mean in our mission now. Of course the commands to proclaim the Good News and make disciples are important at all times. Of course we need to continue to bring healing and hope to the world. However, we might also need to consider how to give support across the generations to a time when there might be renewal. Today many focus particularly on serving this or that generation, but we also have to consider the future beyond.
That is only one view and I’m not sure it is correct. It is different from the dominant conversation in the Church that we have to get the young interested in Christianity or the Church will die out. Rather, in this view the main focus is on the Church remaining faithful and God and time will do the rest. Maybe a balance is required, so that we do not focus either on just human or just divine action, but rather acknowledge that God is working through the faithful in every age.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!