Although we are not “back to normal” per se, a “new,” unsettling normal seems to be forming, and it is not pleasant: continuing hospitalizations from COVID-19; rising death rates in a public reluctant to be protected from the virus; and then of course, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, the rising cost of consumer goods, a severe lack of service-sector employees, commercial space tourism, unstoppable climate change, erratic weather cycles, political infighting complete with ugly partisanship, sky-rocketing real-estate prices, and the specter of government insolvency and shut-down … and the list goes on from there. To make matters worse, the church in North America is in rapid decline. It was not prepared for the impact of COVID, and it is having severe difficulty regaining a thriving membership, retaining clergy, and recovering its societal status. Even if it’s not the “end of days” it has that feel to it. With those types of scenarios playing out, it is no wonder that depression, anxiety, paranoia, unmitigated violence, and hopelessness are on the rise.
All of this change takes its toll on the human soul. However, there is good news if you look hard enough for it. With all of the changes going on in our society, spirituality is on the rise. A new generation is looking for ways to embody their faith in Christ. Many of these new ways are outside of the old norm. For example, going to church is not as important as actually being the church. As it did for Jesus, Isaiah 61:1-3 is becoming the vision for a new generation of Christ’s followers:
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
The new generation that God is lifting up is committed to the gospel in the midst of change, and is looking for communities of education, where they can learn more about Jesus, ministry, theology, and cultural change. They are looking to Yellowstone Theological Institute and many other visionary seminaries for this education. It is the beginning of a new era for the church in culture.
Looking Up, Looking Forward
In the next few weeks, YTI will host a press conference announcing the imminent completion of its capital campaign and the beginning of its construction process, with the goal of a fall 2023 completion. The new building has classrooms, offices, a large community hall, coffee shop, and other sought-after community amenities. The acreage surrounding it is open to the citizens of Bozeman, and will have a community garden, tennis facilities, a children’s park, and an outdoor amphitheater. With this addition to the landscape of the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest, God is raising up a generation of men and women with a resilient faith, who are stepping up in the face of doom and gloom, as a lighthouse in the darkness.
In difficult times, we should not look down, and wallow in the circumstances surrounding us; but rather we should look up, and press on in the knowledge that God has something for us, and that it is worth everything to follow Him.
Grace & Peace,
Dr. Jay Smith, President
Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics