Perhaps the proposal at the end of “Why Are People Leaving Church? Pt. 4” seems irresponsible for someone in leadership in the church.

But I am not entirely convinced that “Why Are People Leaving Church?” should in fact be our primary question or concern in the community of faith.

I am not even totally sure I am convinced that people are actually “leaving church.” There is no doubt that in many church communities, average Sunday attendance has declined over the past ten years. But does this necessarily mean that people are “leaving church”? Or, is it possible that what we are experiencing is more a change of attendance pattern?

The competition for Sunday morning hours is fierce in a way that was not true, certainly twenty years ago. If Sunday morning rolls around and presents an opportunity for free space, which is increasingly rare in our hurried culture, who could blame a family for choosing to stay quietly at home for an unusual few hours of down time just hanging out together?

So, often the family pattern of regular church attendance has been replaced by attendance once every five weeks, or just for “high days and holidays.” Lives are so crowded that carving out weekly space for church seems an impossible task.

Perhaps churches need to adjust to the reality of smaller gatherings for worship and fewer material resources. This is not necessarily an indication of failure or a council for despair and is not cause for panic. The reality of down-sizing may rather be a challenge to greater creativity and renewed flexibility. It may present an opportunity to return to the basics for which church exists and to renew our vision of what it means to live in tune with God’s time, letting go of our determination to impose our agendas and schedules on the work of God’s Spirit.

Richard Rohr frequently reminds his audiences that there is a difference between chronos time and kairos time.

Chronos time is time measured by a clock by the days, months and years marked on a calendar. It is the time of circumstances, events, details, and the passing realities of daily life. It is the time we acknowledge on Ash Wednesday when we mark our foreheads in ash with the sign of the cross and say, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Chronos time is relative time. Here we know that all things pass away and we are ultimately in control of nothing. There is no security when all we have is chronos time.

Chronos time just happens. All we can do is choose how we live in response to the changing realities of our circumstances until chronos time comes to an end for us as it does for all people.

It is chronos time Jesus pointed to when he said,

“You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.

…And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke12:20,25, 26)

Chronos time is the time of measurement, calculation, assessment, and evaluation. In chronos time we feel ultimately responsible for everything. We fall prey to the illusion that we are in control of the forces of life and must exert all our energies to make life work. Chronos time is tiring.

In kairos times, we know that we are carried by a force of life that seeks our well-being.

Richard Rohr calls kairos time “deep time.” In the New Testament it is called “eternity” or “eternal life.” But it does not mean something that is just for later. Kairos time is intended to be lived within chronos time. The eternal is always present in the temporal for those who have developed the ability to perceive depth.

Church exists to call us to an awareness of eternal values. The primary question for church is, “How do we learn to live in the midst of chronos time in such a way that we perceive kairos time?” How can we equip one another to discern the outline of God’s work in the midst of the daily stuff of life so that we can cooperate with that work rather than simply being driven by the changeable circumstances of surface details that are in constant flux?

When we establish ourselves in kairos time, we will live truly and authentically in tune with that power which transcends all the moments of human history and circumstance. Whether we live in chronos time as part of a large and influential body or as a small seed hidden in the depths of the earth is of no consequence. When we live in the light of kairos time, all life bears fruit and supports the true and deep process of transformation we seek to serve.