"For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating." - Isaiah 65:17-18
I'm pushing 40. In every part of culture, except for one, I'm officially middle-aged. That last bastion of youth? The church. Don't get me wrong; I sort of enjoy the church-enabled self-delusion that I am still young. But, when I'm being honest with myself, I know I'm really not all that young anymore.
That's why I'm always troubled by the lack of younger voices in the room when decisions about the future of churches, or denominations, are being made. I have about another thirty years of active ordained ministry left. Then I'll hopefully have some more time left in the pews. And there are two whole generations after me with even more time left in our church.
The decisions being made today are ones that will shape the church of the future. And those who are "younger" are often told that we are the "future of the church." So, how come no one is listening to what the ones who will inherit this church think?
In Isaiah God tells us that God is creating something new, and that we should rejoice and be glad for that. I believe God is doing something new in churches and denominations too. I believe that the church that exists at the end of my life will look radically different than the one that exists now.
That does not scare me. That excites me. And wherever God is leading, I'm going to follow.
I don't know what the future church will look like exactly, but I do know who is going to be there when it comes. And so, I'm drawing on the wisdom of the elders I've had who have taught me to listen to younger voices by listening to mine. I'm starting to look at the next generations, and I'm listening to what they have to say. Because I believe that God will use them to create something worth our joy, and I want to be a part of it.
God, help us to see what you are about to do, and help us empower the ones you are going to use to do your work. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.