Many Voices One Mission: Irrelevant?

Many Voices One Mission: Irrelevant?

Will the Church become an Irrelevant Social Club?

Intuitively when I hear this question about the future of the Church, with regards to becoming an irrelevant social club, I answer: No, of course not!  The Church is an institution that has remained viable for hundreds of years.  Yet, we are at the precipice of a changing religious landscape in America.  According to a recent Pew study , 80 percent of Young Millennials, where I belong to this generation, believe in God while only 38 percent of Young Millennials believe that religion is important.  I share this data because I frequently hear conversations where people from older generations say something in-line with, “Millennials just don’t really believe in Jesus like us” or “Millennials are less spiritual than we are; that’s why they don’t come to church.”  Both of these statements are unequivocally false.  Instead, there seems to be, in many cases, a disconnect between what one’s perception of God is and how that perception aligns with the beliefs and actions of the Church.
To shed some light on this question about the future of the Church I refer to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 sermon, “A Knock at Midnight”:
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men [and all people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will.

But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind [humankind] and fire the souls of men [and all people], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men [and all people] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travellers at midnight.”

A Justice Opportunity:

Reviving Justice is an opportunity to worship, network, and attend workshop on justice and advocacy work. The event is open to all. 
Saturday: Oct. 27, 1:00pm - 5:00pm
First Church of Christ in Simsbury

Event Preacher: Rev. Dr. Damaris D. Whittaker, senior minister at Fort Washington Collegiate in New York City
Workshops include:
  • Racism Repackaged: The Misconception of Change from the 1960s
  • Immigration Justice Panel
  • Environmental Justice Panel
  • Community Organizing: Lessons from Christian Activities Council
Fifty years ago, Dr. King reminded the Church that “it must be the guide and the critic of the state”; however, the state’s (the country’s) actions are often gone ignored. Fifty years ago, Dr. King pushed the Church to participate actively “in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice”; yet, this usually is not at the core of church ministry.  Fifty years ago, Dr. King challenged the Church to “free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo”; yet, many of our churches seldom forego traditions and customs due to being comfortable.  

I am keenly aware of the day-to-day operations that come along with running a church; and I know that it is not always easy to incorporate justice-themed action into a congregation.  However, if something does not drastically change with the way the Church centers itself, I am afraid that Dr. King’s words will one day ring loud and true.  In 2018, each congregation has the opportunity to engage justice in some form; and I challenge you to do so.  Similarly, each individual has the opportunity to engage justice; and I challenge you to do so as well.

Our united Together As One (TA1) covenant says that we are committed to “Living the Love and Justice of Jesus.”  I am excited to see how this takes shape.  I encourage everyone reading this blog to not confine church to a building; not to confine church to worship; and not to confine church to tradition.  This is going to sound crazy and you probably have never heard this before: If you want new results, you have to do something new.  (OK, you probably have heard this before, I hope!)  However, this statement carries so much truth.  I challenge you to do something new.  I challenge you to conceptually view church differently and to incorporate acts of justice; and by doing this the Church can and will remain vital and vibrant permanently.

TJ Harper is the Racial Justice Associate for the MA and CT Conferences, UCC.
Many Voices
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.



TJ Harper

TJ Harper is Associate for Racial Justice for the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ.

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