Our church (Village Seven Presbyterian Church) has a Christian school called Evangelical Christian Academy (ECA). We do this in partnership with our mother church, Grace Presbyterian Church. In 1985, Grace was comprised of about 350 people. Today, it is less than 70, most of whom are over 70 years of age. The church is no longer capable of maintaining her property or providing for her pastor. Most likely, the church give the property over to ECA, which is an act of incredible generosity and grace.
I have thought about Grace Pres. a lot lately. Their pastor, Rick Fite, is a wonderful man and an excellent pastor. The congregation is full of people who love the Lord deeply and want to see God exalted. They have sacrified to support ECA even though they receive no direct benefit from it. They care about taking the gospel to the nations. For over 50 years, they have been a light in our community. I am so thankful for the tremendous ministry that Grace has had throughout the years. The ministry of Grace Pres. will continue for years to come through ECA, Village Seven, and the many lives touched there by the gospel. In this, we rejoice.
Yet, what is happening at Grace is the natural course for every church and should be a warning to us. We are seeing this all throughout my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. If the church is not intentional in reaching out--particularly in reaching the next generation--it will die. Even more, it is not enough for a church to have ministries to children, like Vacation Bible School or Christian school, it must be a place that is intentionally for the next generation without neglecting those who are present.
Dr. Bryan Chapell, in his wonderful book, Christ-Centered Worship, says, "A church also has no future if leaders only consider how to minister to the present generation. We are mistaken, of course, to let our children determine what our worship should be; we are also mistaken not to consider how their children may need to worship" (p. 131). Dr. Chapell is not advocating the "dumbing down" of worship. Just the opposite. Rather, like the Reformers, he is advocating rich, Reformed worship that is in the language and forms that the worshipper understands.
The church must continually think through all of its ministries to ensure that they are both biblical and effective. Programs that worked in 1970 will not always work today. Communication styles that worked in one era are not always effective in other eras. For example, read John Piper (21st century), Jim Boice (20th century), Charles Spurgeon (19th century), Jonathan Edwards (18th century), John Owens (17th century, and John Calvin (16th century) to see how different these great preachers were. All were biblical. None were shallow, but each fit in his own cultural context. The music and educational formats in each of these eras was different as well.
Our city needs more healthy, biblical churches, not less. Therefore, we must continue to work hard to ensure, not only our present health, but our future ministry at Village Seven. We must continually ensure we are effective in reaching the next generation and start new churches that will share in this vision. If we keep our eye on the Lord and put His mission before our desires, then I trust God will continue to bless us as we seek to be a life giving church to Colorado Springs, the West, and the World.