One gift God gave me a long time ago was the ability to look ahead and see where the church needed to be or where it should be in the future. I have had a lot of time to think about this even though I am not in the middle of it like I once was.
There will be people that read this who are in churches that haven’t changed anything in decades regarding the way they do church and I don’t think this blog is about or for them. It is for churches and leaders that have been willing to change the methods but not the message in an effort to be effective in today’s culture. The hardest thing about change is that too often we hold on to the old changes that were made and refuse to revisit the vision. Eventually we change because of necessity or we die. Sometimes a church is dead in effectiveness long before the doors close and the building is sold.
So what will church look like down the road? Here is what I see and what I long to be a part of. Production church will come to an end. Already there are generations of men and women among us who find our use of multi media and other things we do that once were impressive, very unimpressive. They are seeking something that is real and authentic and you won’t believe where that will take us. Words that will become important will include decentralizing, de-professionalizing, and de-institutionalizing. The era of spectator Christianity or church will come to an end because our cultural crisis in the western hemisphere won’t allow us to get away with it anymore. In reality the crisis is worldwide.
As the culture implodes around us and things that we have come to expect and demand go away it will force us to listen to God’s voice either in mercy or judgement. It has been fascinating to watch Christians (especially conservative ones) take to social media to line up behind one presidential candidate or the other. I can assure you based on the word of God that our future is not going to be made better or safer for Christians based on a presidential candidate. The Bible is pretty clear about what’s coming. It will change everything we think we know about church and how it is supposed to look.
History does repeat itself but in this case it is not a nostalgic trip. It will look like the past in some ways but it is not about older people pining for doing church the way we used to. It is about a culture that wants more than a over produced show on a Sunday morning. They want and need for it to feel way less perfect and way less controlled. I think it will be a place where we discover that need for openness and not just in an edited video story. I mean the kind of openness that gets messy and uncomfortable. People are allowed to share their story and brokenness and even though we may squirm through it because it is not perfect or it is going to make us late for our lunch we do it because we care. We love the unlovable. It will seem risky but it will be worth it and will make us a true place of refuge in this crazy upside down world.
We will actually not do anything without being confident that this is God’s will for our church and community not just something that helped some other church attract a lot of people. We will pray and then we will pray some more. We will wait on the God of our Salvation to rise up among us. People will be allowed to speak (sort of like the old prayer request days). People will be allowed to praise God openly. Children will be given a place. They will understand and participate not as a distraction but as a family worshiping and connecting with God. People may move around in the service. Someone besides the pastor may deliver the message. Hurts will be prayed for on the spot. People will respond to each others needs. This church may meet in homes or any room that will be functional and allow for the presence of God. We will find great value in going to church in our immediate community or neighborhood. Spiritual transformation will be the only true test of success which will free us of the “nickels and noses” test of today.
Sunday mornings are a testimony to the brokenness of God’s church as we hurry to get ready and arrive at our brand or franchise church. We put our time in and hurry off to lunch and another week of disconnection and distraction.
My hunger over the last year has been to connect with a group of people that want to be Jesus representatives in this world. They will seek to know Him. They will surrender their brokenness to Him. They will walk in His forgiveness and urge others to accept His mercy. They will not be about numbers or cool services but about connecting with God and each other on a daily and weekly basis. They will not look at other churches for comparison but respond to the never changing call of Jesus to love Him first and then our neighbors as ourselves. I hunger . . . I wait and watch and pray.
(This blog post is merely my opinion. It is what I think and that is all.)