Seated around the table
were billion-dollar philanthropists, government gatekeepers, religious leaders, lawyers, environmentalists and everyday placemakers. Stated at the forefront of our time together in Montreal, this was posed as our guiding charter:
Religious organizations are experiencing a once-in-500-year operating system revolution. These ancient yet adapting faiths are also stewarding societies’ most precious social purpose real estate: land and buildings which have the power to either re-build, or disperse, a resilient local community. We are the people who are responsible for and who influence how this transition is happening. How will we lead?
Assertive words, perhaps, but we cannot ignore the realities around us. The slow decay of our physical places of worship is equal only to the decline of what’s happening within it. The ways we have expressed our faith over the past few centuries is changing, but the Sunday-morning void it leaves doesn’t have to be only a death.
Resurrection is possible.
The question for us, together in Montreal, was how?
Words matter. And as I processed this charter—the specific words selected with strategic thought and intentionality—I zeroed in on one word:
I studied history in college—it’s even on my diploma—which can mean very little except to say in this case that I spent many hours examining and unpacking revolutions. Of all the world’s revolutions spanning continents and centuries, one generality is usually true:
Revolutions are driven from the outside-in. They march from the margins to the center, whether the center is ready for change or not. (Hint: The center is never ready for it, thus the status quo.)
Which means this: If the church is embarking on a revolution of sorts—which I would tend to agree is happening—my question is,
Who’s leading the way?
If we—all the religious leaders and pastors and elders and denominations and church councils and church subcommittees—are leading the way, then it’s more a revitalization project than it is a revolution. But if change is coming from the outside, now we’re talking revolution!
Of course, our churches and our pastors and our denominations have a part to play in this revolution—an integral part,in fact—so I’m not dismissive of our role to play. However, as is central to the work of placemaking, I’m of the mindset that how we reimagine our space and our place and how we inhabit them should be driven first and foremost by our community, by our neighbors who we’ve been called to love as ourselves.
To the delight of all my Star Wars friends out there, dare I say,
This is the way.
Have a great week, friends!