Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I think it’s time to get serious. The weeks leading up to entering basic training at the Air Force Academy were glorious. Like a hero going on an adventure, there were congratulations, meaningful conversations, celebrations with family and friends, sad goodbyes, practical preparations, and my entourage standing at the gate of the airport (back when that was still possible) to wish me well. Arriving at Dad’s house in Colorado Springs, there was an air of anticipation and a feast the night before to rival the end of the world. An amazing new chapter was about to begin! Dad pulled up to a stop sign in the cadet area, I got out with my bag of personal effects, and everything changed. Everything. An upperclass cadet started yelling, I ran to a spot on the ground, learned, immediately, how to stand at attention, and spent the day getting a new hair cut, new clothes, shots, equipment, and either running from place to place or waiting in long lines. What had I gotten into? The glory was gone. It was time to get serious.
It feels like we are at a similar moment of transition in the church. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the accelerating growth of the unaffiliated from religion (up to 25% of the population overall and 40% of younger generations), the exodus of people from Catholicism (six leave for every one who joins), and the lowered median age of those who leave (now, 13 years old). This, of course, isn’t just happening in the church, but in all areas of our society. A different angle and common thread behind these trends is the rise of personal electronic devices, the internet, and social media. One group calls it the biggest communication shift in 500 years. This shift has rarely lived up to the promise of a more connected, informed, happier and just society, but it continues to affect almost every aspect of how we live. Elements of the experiences that were once exclusive to a physical location (sports, shopping, entertainment, business, and church) can now be streamed to your phone. Blockbuster, one-time king of video, failed to purchase Netflix when given the opportunity and has ceased to exist. Disney, with a rich legacy, has recently begun streaming its own content and, though a little late in the game, may survive or thrive.
The glory of the past has waned and a new reality faces us as a church. We have a rich legacy, the richest, but with patience, prudence, wisdom, discernment, creativity and boldness, we need to find new paths. Standing on the unchanging foundation of our faith and leaning into sacrificial love, we need a conversion of each of our hearts and minds to live for others, to witness to God’s work in our lives, to embrace the technology that defines modern culture, and to have a preferential option for the young. We will make mistakes, learn, adjust, sacrifice, and change, but whatever we do, in word or deed, we will do in the name of the Lord Jesus. It’s time to get serious.