One of my favorite church staffs call their congregation “a healthy dinosaur.”
I take that to mean that they recognize that the way they do church is somewhat dated but they are healthy enough to keep going for a while. They might be headed towards extinction, but they can probably last several more decades and maybe even a century.
Scientists believe that about 66 million years ago a meteor with the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs hit where the Yucatan Peninsula lies today. Hello Cancun.
“Within two minutes of slamming into Earth, the asteroid, which was at least six miles wide, had gouged a crater about eighteen miles deep and lofted twenty-five trillion metric tons of debris into the atmosphere” according to this article from The New Yorker. This jolt would have killed every dinosaur on the planet except perhaps for the ones that could fly (i.e. birds.)
I’m hoping that nothing resembling an atomic bomb (or a billion of them) ever hits the Earth but if that should happen, it’s obvious that life as we know it would immediately A) vaporize, B) be covered in molten goo, C) become crushed under massive amounts of radioactive debris, D) All the above plus several other unimaginable consequences. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
BBC Future pondered in 2017 the question: What if dinosaurs hadn’t died out?
- What if the asteroid missed the earth?
- What if the asteroid hit minutes earlier or later and hit the Pacific Ocean instead of what is now southeastern Mexico?
Some scientists believe that the dinosaurs would have become extinct even if there’d been no asteroid for several reasons:
- The temperatures had become too cool.
- Dinosaurs were generally not good at community-building. They took care of their own without much regard for other nests or neighbors.
- Some dinosaurs ate other dinosaurs instead of plants (which was the healthier choice.)
Maybe all of our congregations are dinosaurs headed for extinctions. Or maybe the ones able to fly above it all will evolve and live on. But clearly something totally different is emerging, and not only is this okay; it will be a blessing because God is all about blessing us when we at least try to follow the way of Jesus.
The First Century Church looked very different from what we know today. No pews, stained glass, or Sunday School. The people were the Church everyday. There were prayers every day. There was healing every day. There were acts of mercy every day. There was worship every day. There were holy experiences every day by the water, on the highway, in the field, throughout the marketplace. Every Day.
I believe that the Church will never be extinct if we follow the lead of our First Century ancestors. But if we are cold, if we fail to connect with our neighbors and love others as we love us and ours, if we make unhealthy choices and eat our own, we will indeed be extinguished from the Earth.
If we are unhealthy dinosaurs and we’ve forgotten our Early Church roots, we will die out faster. If we are healthy dinosaurs, we can last longer but we too will die without evolving.
We can be the ones with ancient DNA flying above the world but living in the world to share what we have. We might be dinosaurs now, but we can emerge into new species. And emerging doesn’t have to feel like an atomic bomb landed on top of us, unless it’s the only way God can get our attention. (Sometimes we just won’t make the changes unless a catastrophe happens.)
Image is the cover of The Last Days of the Dinosaurs (Prehistoric Field Guides) by Matthew Rake.
Absolutely love this… I feel like we’re missing out on so much of what it means to be the church because we’ve isolated “church” to such a small piece of the Christian life. I remember a book by J.B. Phillips titled “Your God is too Small”. I think we face the same conundrum with our view of the church.
re. dinosaur extinction: also, in the case of the T-Rex, those teeny tiny short arms were useless for holding a knife and fork when trying to eat a meal, right? A case of poor genetic engineering, there, I reckon. 😉
Great post – and great reminder re. the J.B Phillips title. It’s a terrifying thought to try and imagine the utter immensity of God, isn’t it? How to we resist that urge towards containment and domestication, I wonder?
Hope you’re well, friend!
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