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The Church is in decline, but I’m still hopeful

I was sad and fearful when I first read about the drastic decline in the Western church. The people I love so much, my people, are dwindling. “At risk of extinction”, they say. “Not culturally relevant,” they shout. These words pierced my soul because I love the Church. But today I lament, I cry out, and I confess.

Confessions

Lord, we have a lot of confessing to do.

We confess that we have somehow created a culture of consumerism in our churches, and as a result, we’ve made the Sunday morning gathering about meeting individual preferences and desires.

We confess that we, the pastors, try to do it all and as a result have often sidelined God's gifted people.

We confess that we have blindly participated in triumphalism, abusive power structures, complex systems of racism, gender preferences, and socio-economic favoritism.

We repent for being afraid of the empowering presence of the Spirit, and fearing transformation. We confess that we act as though you, Sovereign Lord, are something to behold or control.

And, we confess that we have somehow bought into the lie that you can be pushed out, ushered out, controlled, and extinct.

Not even death on a cross could keep You away.

No, not even death itself could suppress the resurrecting power of the Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

And on this day, I look to this story with much hope. You, God, became flesh, lived an earthly life, emptied yourself of power, fulfilled scripture, healed the blind, forgave the sinner, and submitted to death on a cross.

Three days later the earth shook and you were raised from the dead! Sonic boom! People saw you, touched you, hugged you, and then you ascended to your throne where you reign today.

King Jesus. You reign.

The story didn’t stop there! As the disciples were waiting, praying, yearning, longing, and hoping, there was another happening. A great wind, fire, and transforming power was infused within your people and the Church was formed. Thousands joined this Jesus-movement.

Oh, how we forget. We forget that the early church thrived under intense religious persecution. We forget that thousands of Christians laid down their very lives under the reign of Domitian and Nero. And not even that could usher out the Spirit. Not even the sword could bring the Church to extinction.

Decline? Fine.

But I will not lose hope. Greater is the One who goes before us, lives with in us; this grand story is still not over.

Lord, I believe and pray

Lord, I cry out to you; my heart burns and I am thirsty for revival. The depth of my being longs to see your power unleashed in your people!

Help us to trust, respond, and obey your Spirit. Set a fire so deep down in our souls that we can’t help but to be transformed!

Help us to confess and repent of our arrogance, narcissism, and consumerism. And, help us to put to death anything that reeks of individualism and selfishness.

Help us to be a people of God that are propelled and impelled by the empowering presence of the Spirit that brings unity, love, forgiveness, inclusion, and grace.

Help us to live with the hopeful expectation that the Kingdom of God is in-breaking and the King is among us. Empower us, Lord, to live with utter abandon to the King and His Kingdom.

Today, Lord, I don’t believe for a second that our story is at risk of being over. Today, I am hopeful.

Holy Spirit, rain down.

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About the author

Tara Beth lives in the western suburbs of Chicago along with her husband, Jeff, and her rambunctious toddler boys, Caleb and Noah. A Nazarene Pastor, Tara Beth has served in churches in Upstate New York, Naperville, IL., and now serves as Director of Women’s Ministry at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a non-denominational church in a western suburb of Chicago. She is a student at Northern Theological Seminary where she also works as a Teaching Assistant for Scot McKnight. She is a regular writer for Missio Alliance and also contributed a chapter to The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life: Ethical and Missional Implications of the New Perspective, "The Symphonic Melody: Wesleyan Holiness Theology Meets New Perspective Paul" Edited by Scot McKnight and Joe Monica. tarabethleach.com