Ryan Ardrey | NTS Class of 2014
Student Leadership Team President
Do you ever wonder why most people go to church? Some of them probably go to get answers to their questions. Others might go to find solutions to their problems. I’m just past my halfway point at NTS and so far I haven’t found myself becoming the “answer guy” who gives out spiritual insight to those visiting the religious market. However, I would like to think I’m getting better at asking the right questions and encouraging people to have beneficial conversations.
One exciting discussion we’ve been having at NTS is in response to the identity crisis the church is experiencing. If you haven’t noticed, our society is going through some changes. It’s almost cliché to even say that now. Regardless, given this reality, what is the church doing about it? Just a few of the challenges we are facing include the rapid growth of technology, pervasive relativism, an anchorless generation of Millennials, and decreased church attendance.
I look around and can’t help but think the church needs to look different than it has before. I’m hopeful my classmates at NTS are capable of shaping the church of the future, but here’s the big “if”: we can only move the church into the future if we step up and be the change we want to see. I’m not saying it is an easy task; there are some legitimate bridges to be built. Modern Christianity with its solid Biblical foundation and moral sensitivities is different than the emerging post-modern Christianity with a flexible view of Biblical tenants and openness to differing viewpoints. This divide plays itself out in sometimes divisive issues like worship style. Some people my age have struck out and planted churches and ministries that meet the specific needs of the younger generation. This kind of creativity is needed but I hope we won’t embrace the new school to the detriment of the old school. I’m convinced the church isn’t the church unless Christians of all backgrounds, ages, and colors can worship together.
Like I said before, I don’t have all the answers but I think a starting point for the church is to embrace servant leadership. One author I read recently encourages servant leaders to “create dangerously.” A Millennial leader viewing God and the church through the eyes of the “old guard” might be just as uncomfortable as a painter sitting down with a lump of clay to mold a sculpture. The established church could also dabble in the art of uncertainty. How uncomfortable would it be to let go of the reins and jump on board with someone who has less life experience and knowledge? The servant leaders who will help the church in the years to come will be praying the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood as to understand.” We need to take the time to listen and understand and we need to have the courage to go out and create. The challenges we face are not going anywhere, but neither is God. He has never been short on creativity and he wants to use all of the church to bring in his sheep who have wandered into the wilderness.
Greenleaf, Robert, K. Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), p 11