As we approach General Conference, I have felt a growing understanding of why the church needs to change.
I have a strong testimony that our role as church members, is to gather scattered Israel, all the while hastening the speed with which we do this. We have seen the growth in global church membership accelerate. However I have always imagined we were gathering people into the church I have spent my adult life in. That somehow the church, in order to be a rallying point, had to be an unchanging beacon.
But the church can’t and isn’t remaining unchanged.
Just to clarify, the church and the gospel are two separate things. The Gospel or “Good news” of Jesus Christ is unchanging, there will be no announcements that alter the need for Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Church is the earthly organisation that promotes and provides access to the Gospel. The Church is and will continue to change.
I must state that I don’t have an inside track to church headquarters. The following are thoughts based on my experiences fron recent leadership training meetings and from my work as a contractor maintaining church property.
Two phrases that stood out when meeting with our Local Area Authority.
“We need to stop being busy playing churches”
“We are moving from being church focused to Temple focused”
Busy playing church
Anyone who has held a leadership calling will recognise this. The merry-go-round of people taking different roles in ward councils. The challenge of filling church callings and all the while thinking this is the purpose of the role we have. If all the auxiliaries are staffed, we are winning! Like children playing shop, there is lots of organising but very little “income from sales”
Notice how the Bretheren are simplifying the organisation, to focus us on the message?
Merging Melchizadek quorums/groups has halved the staffing requirements.
We learn at home and discuss at church – simplifying Sunday School.
Cloud based computer systems allow clerks to log in and “work from home”
Ministering is the simple act of caring and nurturing.
By simplifying the structure, we focus on the Saviour. Yet as I visit wards, I still see people hanging onto the past, like the scribes of old. Worrying we are not recording the number of Home Teaching visits, or that companionship X hasn’t been in member Y’s home to deliver a message. Even though X has contacted Y, 3 times last week and gone for lunch together.
If we can’t let go of programs already gone we will struggle with changes in the future.
With more temples than ever before, we are taught a continued focus of being on the Covenant Path. Making and keeping covenants is after all the requirement for exaltation
We need church buildings to make baptismal covenants and to “gather together oft to partake of the sacrament” We need temples for all the other covenants and ordinances of exaltation.
As the church expands into new areas there is an explosion in membership waiting to happen Africa, China and India are poised to be major areas of growth. But this growth is going to bring financial challenges to the church.
The audit report at conference is often overlooked by members, but every year we are told the church is run on sound financial principals. We only spend what we have. The Bretheren balance the books and don’t spend assuming the Lord will make good the difference.
To fund more temples you need, more income or less expenditure elsewhere. If you expand into poorer countries you won’t get the same level of income as you do in wealthy countries.
So does the church stop printing vast amounts of different lesson manuals, moving to a single “Come Follow me” manual, just to save the planet. Or to be prudent with funds. Just as all comandments are both spiritual and temporal. I believe theses changes are too.
Do we need to spend as much on building and maintaining chapels if we are temple focused? Have you noticed the Church doesn’t build the same number of “big” chapels it use to?
I anticipate further simplification of “Church” organisation and programs, to enable a much greater focus on temple building and attendance.
I started by saying “I have always imagined we were gathering people into the church I have spent my adult life in.” I now see us gathering many more people to a simplified church. Recognising this simplification is a vital part of spreading the Gospel.
The Church is not simplifying because it’s getting bigger…. it’s simplifying to ALLOW IT TO GET BIGGER !
Funny isn’t it… The world would add layers of management and complexity to an organisation to make it grow, God simplifies…