In our media and popular culture there has been a heightened interest these days in a once largely ignored population. Suddenly, movies and books and video games and television shows are popping up left and right all with this one “people” group at the forefront.
I’m talking about Zombies, of course.
Shows like The Walking Dead, video games like Dead Rising, movies like Zombieland, and books like Pride, Prejudice and Zombies have all seen widespread success in the past few years. We are utterly fascinated with the idea of creatures existing in an undead state terrorizing the towns people as they try and feed their appetite for human brains. (I gotta admit, I never thought I’d be writing phrases like “appetite for human brains” in a devotional…) With all this in mind I think it is high time that the church jumped on the Zombie bandwagon!
The thing is, if we are really honest with ourselves, I think the church has been on the Zombie bandwagon a lot longer than we’d like to admit. Let me explain.
In my years as a pastor, I’ve loved to ask people, both inside and outside of the Church a simple question: “What is your hope for the future of the Church?”
Sometimes people will offer some tangible ideas: “I want to see a better Sunday School program,” or “I want our congregation to be more mission-minded,” or “I want our church to have more members and more young families.” These are all admirable hopes, but in a way, all of these hopes are elements of the broader statement that I hear most often. When I ask different people what they hope for in the future of the church nearly every time people will eventually say, “I just want to the church to go back to the way it used to be.”
People love their churches, and they have fond memories about “the glory days” when 5,000 people showed up each Sunday, and 8,000 children participated in Sunday school, and the endowment fund was larger than the budget of most small countries, and every weekend there were 10 infant baptisms, 20 adult baptisms, and 30 new members.
But part of the problem with “wanting the church to go back to the way it was” is that we often see the past through rose-colored glasses. We think everything was wonderful “back in the day”, but in reality there were lots of things that were less than perfect. Obviously, this can create some false and unhelpful expectations but believe it or not, this isn’t the biggest problem with hoping for the past to return.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” - Revelations 21:5
The problem with longing for the past to return is that God does not work like that. We believe that God is continually making all things new. We believe that God is a God of Resurrection not a God of reanimation. When Jesus was raised from the dead, we wasn’t a zombie! The disciples didn’t recognize him, he was alive again but somehow different, something new was beginning in the Resurrected Christ.
The problem is that when we long for the future church to look exactly like the church of the past, we’re hoping for a Zombie Church. We’re hoping for that which is dead to be reanimated into a world that is vastly different than it was 50 years ago. The Good News is that God is a God of resurrection and the future is filled with hope because God is breathing new life into the church, and into this world.
May we be saved from longing for a Zombie Church and may we trust and hope in the promise of the Resurrection above all else. Amen.