Friday, January 2, 2009

The Local Church, where is it going?

What will church look like in the future? It is a fundamental question that most people like to ignore. Why? We are comfortable with what we know. There is fear of the unknown. People generally do not like change. Especially change we don’t understand. But it doesn’t have to be scary when we understand why we need to change. If we keep our priorities biblical, we make the right changes. If we make changes for the sake of change, or attitudes of rebellion or any other reason other than our mission here on earth we fail to do what God wills in our lives.
Let’s begin with Matthew 28:19 – 20. This passage states that we are to work toward making disciples of all nations. That is our mandate. If you do not agree, then we will not agree on much beyond this point.

I also believe the mechanism God uses to reach new people, grow our people, train our people, send out our people, meet needs, worship, serve God, serve one another, and serve our leaders is the Church. So, if you believe that in order to be MOST effective these can or should take place outside of a local church our perspectives will differ greatly. (I grant that there are plenty of organizations and entities doing a better job than most local churches. However, that does not erase our responsibility to model our ministry Biblically.) The parts of the organizations that are very impactful are simply carrying out aspects of the church’s responsibility. What if the church executed its God given responsibilities? I believe the church would see healthy, life-long fruit in its ministry.

So with all that said how do we:
A. Take part in the great commission most effectively?
B. Be church to a lost world, properly representing Christ?

To answer ‘A’ we must realize our mandate is holistic. The great commission embodies evangelism, growth in our understanding of scripture, corporate worship, growth in our prayer life, and growth in our relationship with Christ. Therefore, the church should position itself to best instill this in our culture. With the rise in post-modernity, there is more of an emphasis in authentic relationships. More and more young people are coming from broken homes, and many come from homes where parental presence is lacking. Vulnerability, friendship and authenticity are vital and accepted. A good rule of thumb is to keep group sizes medium small (10 – 15 people). Using Jesus’ example of his 12 disciples; He had his 12, then his 3, then his 1. He also had them for only 3 years. The disciples then divided and conquered. We help people stay motivated if we push them to teach, lead their own group, take on a prayer circle and or team, and lead in worship. There is no magic formula because people are all different, however all people should be growing, continuing to move into positions of influence. There also exists a generational gap, so the more ministries are geared to bridge that gap rather than divide that gap the more effective the ministry. The church represents a “family.” The more we separate people the less we operate as a family. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are effective ministries for specific people with specific needs. Addictions, Jr. high boys and girls, single moms, single dads, singles, young couples, parents ect. But I feel we over divide and that the demographic divisions become the emphasis. I believe the divisions into smaller groups should looks more like little families, covering multiple generations because we have much to learn from people of all walks of life.
To answer question B we must realize that perception is important. The Bible even says to abstain from the appearance of evil. So appearances are important. We can’t do anything about how people view us right now but we are held accountable for we personally and corporately do. So how do we show people Jesus? Do what Jesus did. Hang out with sinners, tell people the truth, feed people, meet people’s needs, challenge people and tell the alternative story (The Gospel.) There is another way to do this and it’s the way Jesus paved. So how do people see Jesus in action from the outside? Where are we feeding the hungry? Hanging with sinners? Where are we meeting our community’s needs? Where are we challenging people? Where are we telling the alternative story? As an organization how seriously do we take our city’s problems? How are we engaging them? As a church we can be recognized this way publically. We need to make sure that our public sees Jesus for who he really is, including the parts that make us uncomfortable. We are not responsible for changing Jesus we are responsible for representing Jesus. The problem that has risen in the past is that the church has not always represented Jesus. We can even see the stark contrast between Pharisees and Jesus.
I really think most of this is simple paradigm shifting. Moving from a church where the pastor and a few deacons do everything, and Super-Christians doing all the work and wanting all the credit to an ad hoc network where multiple people are engaged on multiple levels and growing.

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