by Noelle Kirchner
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Is the church dying? I am a denominationally-trained pastor, and worship statistics in the United States aren’t always encouraging. My heart breaks when I hear that more churches have closed their doors.
I recently sat down with a few female pastors for lunch. As much as we were excited to catch up, the topic quickly shifted to, “How can we creatively engage our congregation and spur its future growth?” It’s a vital question.
Brainstorming ways to reach new people about old wisdom is important for two reasons. First, God wants the church to continuously reflect the vibrancy of his Being. Second, while numbers might have dwindled in the pew, the need for God’s church certainly hasn’t.
As I look around, cultural pain is both old and new. Widespread social division is palpable. The need that the church can fill still abounds, but many are going to drier and drier wells to drink. In an online age when we’ve never been more connected, we’ve never felt more alone. Plus, we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other.
We’ve been hoodwinked.
Faith has always been capable of uniting people. Shared values and goals are more important than differences when people come together for something bigger than themselves. It’s our following of something greater than has the power to fill us in ways that don’t disappoint and heal the cracks in our collective soul.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). Christ can fill a void that nothing else can or will. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
While the need for God is age-old, the humility that faith inspires is precisely the balm needed today. We’re poised for another revival. There’s freedom in dethroning the self and enthroning God. There’s healing in recognizing our need for God and one another amidst widespread isolation. There’s victory in grounding life in God’s unconditional love rather than our fickle culture.
I am reminded of Jesus’ observation that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few in Matthew 9:37. His truth holds true. The harvest is brimming.
Who are the laborers? We are. Fellow women, the church needs our voices too. I interviewed Kate Battistelli, mother to Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Francesca Battistelli. Her advice to women is: “Be brave. Be bold.” That willingness to be brave and bold, coupled with compassion and understanding, can change the world for Christ’s glory.
How do we labor? As only you can. Each of us can give God glory by embodying exactly whom God calls us to be and doing what he has called us to do in the place he has called us to. Authentic witness is risky, difficult, and thrilling. Our life itself becomes a Kingdom tool.
As I think about the conversation I had with my female pastor friends, I wonder what “creative engagement” with the church might look like for you. If people aren’t coming to church, how can you bring church to people? How can you be the church to a needy world in pain?
When I was in seminary, a beloved professor taught that the healthiest churches, like families, are poised to flex and bend in times of crisis. The higher the rigidity, the less healthy the system, and the more likely that it will break. Church revival might necessitate a pivot, or turning a period into a comma and trying something new.
One pivot I appreciate seeing is the church’s willingness to use online platforms. While nothing can replace in-person community, the church’s online presence can be redemptive in an often superficial online world. An effective online presence raises awareness of the church’s work, expands its invitation to participate, and scatters life-giving seeds in people’s feeds that God can grow. Amidst the ads and complaints and politics, people surfing and scrolling online might also find testimonies from friends about Jesus or truth from Scripture. God’s word goes out like a farmer sowing seed, and it will not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11).
While the church is pivoting, my own witness has morphed from what I initially imagined. I have served as a hospital chaplain, associate pastor, faith and parenting TV host, and writer. Each pivot has been at God’s direction and has been filled with unique learning and fulfillment.
As times change, new challenges unearth new opportunities. The church we love is still needed and necessary. I can’t wait to see how God turns periods into commas as we follow his lead and allow our lives to reflect the vibrancy of his Kingdom—for such a time as this.
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, M.Div., believes we don't have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is an ordained Presbyterian minister, regular contributor to Crosswalk, and the host of a faith and parenting TV show "Chaos to Calm'' with on-demand episodes. You can connect with her on her website (noellekirchner.com) and also check out her book, How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God's Best.