"My Thoughts on the Future Church" I shared what worried me about the future church, namely the conclusions that are coming from the Emergent Church segment.
I also shared that this post would be about why I'm excited and the following post would be my thoughts on the future of the Church. So, here goes!
Why I'm Excited
I grew up in a Western PA, evangelical church. I am a PK (Pastor's Kid) and have lived a gigantic portion of my life in church. I am also a Pastor myself, so my occupation is surrounded in the church (oddly enough I'm a pastor in the church I grew up in).
There has been a surge of frustration with the Western church for some time now and because of that frustration, people have been asking great questions in order to restructure some church methodology. The modern methodology doesn't work any longer within the emerging generation, nor will it work with the generation’s afterword. This has been studied and proven. I am excited about several questions that are being asked by today’s emerging leaders.
Here’s the first that excites me.
How do we evangelize?
Evangelism is key to the forward advance of the Gospel. If the Gospel is not being communicated, nor embraced by some, the growth of the church will cease and the reason Christ established the church will no longer exist. Christ gave a command, his last in fact, to:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
We as His Body need to be going out and making disciples for Christ. In the modern era of the church street evangelism, tract evangelism and Televangelism were the hot items. Going to someone's home, knocking on the door and talking about Christ was common place. Walking in the mall, greeting someone face-to-face and handing them a tract as if it were a mall survey was normative. Today, those are seen as impersonal, (sometimes) judgmental and all around unattractive.
Many people today (mostly younger people) desire a relationship before a discussion about deep issues. Religion and belief systems are deep issues in the hearts of people. It is not a topic a stranger can speak into with any sort of effect. It would be akin to me coming up to someone and asking how their sex life is going...it's just creepy to talk to a stranger about such things.
Also, with tract evangelism I've seen how "tractees" (tract junkies) have ruined the meaning and power of this tool. I worked as a server at Chili's for several years and encountered several tracts both given to myself and given to my co-workers.
Here's out it went usually: these mid-upper class people would walk into the restaurant, and would complain about the wait being too long. They would sit down order drinks and ignore their server. When the drinks came, they would (not so) politely share how their drink is wrong for one reason or another, then after the corrections to their drinks were made, they'd order their food (with everything on the side) and again ignore the server (because after all they're only there to serve you). After several returns to the kitchen, the check would come and they would pay the bill and leave. Inside the bill holder was a tract and a less than 10% tip.
This is NOT healthy evangelism...and the server (sometimes myself) would be left to ponder why they never tried to strike up a conversation with me or get to know me. They just assumed I was an unsaved heathen and gave me a tract walking away satisfied that they had just done their "God duty" for the day.
The emerging church is begging the question: How can we EFFECTIVELY evangelize in this emerging generation and beyond? They MUST ask this (so must we) because what has been done (and worked I will admit) in the past no longer has grounds to be used. In fact in a Barna Group study done in 2005 the finding was that LESS THAN 1% of emerging gen. Christians came to faith by: Door-to-door evangelism, street evangelism, tract evangelism and televangelism COMBINED!
Many people have been thinking through evangelism for years and have been developing GREAT ways in which to witness in this emerging culture. I know what I am saying is NOT new by any means, but I am excited because having witnessed both types of training in evangelism, this new focus (namely relational evangelism) is exciting and is a working resource I can put into the hands of my Middle School students!
Another question that excites me in the emerging mind is:
How can the church think globally?
I know I am generalizing a bit, but generally speaking churches have a tough time thinking outside of their four walls. This of course is not a story of the whole, but of a fair few to be sure. We are not known as a people who serve the world out of love (which is pretty sad since 1 John 4:8 says that if we don’t know love, we don’t know God). The question of thinking globally has only in the recent century been attainable, but for the past decades, how active has the church been on the global scale? To be honest, I’m not sure but I don’t feel the church has been as active as it could be.
Let me first say that I am only now trying to think globally, asking myself: “What cause does God want me to back? How can I make a difference in this world outside of myself? What can I take on that is bigger than myself that God wants me to take a leap of faith in? So the criticism is for myself as well, because although I’ve done “some” I’ve not done enough either.
I’m excited because this new focus allows the world to see that Jesus is not a judgmental, selfish jerk (like so many of his followers are perceived as being/are?) but that Jesus and His people are people who actually care about things bigger than themselves and desire the world to be healed as Christ did.
Thinking globally fulfills the creed that Christ gave us in Matthew 28. He didn’t say to make disciples only where you live but throughout the world!
This also brings to mind the idea of social justice, which is my next excitement about the future of the church.
The question of Social Justice
This is an issue that has been a hot button topic for a long, long time. However, it is becoming a bit more of an idea that is in the forefront of people’s minds…that is making sure we are caring for people as a whole. Whether you look at it or not, we still live in a racist world, and no one can say otherwise. I am delighted to see that this is an issue that many emerging gen pastors, and congregants are willing to fight for, social justice is on their hearts and minds. I am NOT advocating a “social gospel” by any means, but God has created us all and no one is “more” or “less” for any reason!
Growing up in an inner-city church and now working there, I have been privileged to be forced to see the reality that social justice is highly important in our world! I have been privileged to have tons of good multi-ethnic relationships due to my church and as a result have had my eyes opened to the importance of social justice.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); he didn’t come to seek and save just the rich, the whites, the famous or any other distinction. He is the atoning sacrifice not only for “certain people” but for the WHOLE world (1 John 2:2)!
Sadly, some groups of people have made it a point to remain homogenous and have not reached out to those different from them (even some have called for homogenous churches within the Emergent segment). This is not what heaven will look like, and if we are constantly surrounded by those who look, act, smell, dress and talk like us how can we ever grow as much as God intended?
There are several other things I am excited about but if I were to write those all out, this may become a mini-book. God is doing a new thing within the hearts of my generation as well as the generations to follow. Our job is to go to the Scripture and make sure the new things are truly from Him.
The next post will be on where I think the church is headed and what it will look like as whole in the future. It looks pretty exciting!