The world is changing. The church is going to have to change as well. Of course, the church has always been changing just as the world has continually changed, but the changes of the last few decades have increased in both rate and volume. In a previous post I commented on what I think these changes may mean for the church. Here are four things I think Christians will need for navigating the future.
1. Depth of faith and knowledge
The faith walk of many Christians today is shallow. People are Christians in name only. They do not have a detailed knowledge of faith. The statistics are staggering on how many Christians cannot answer simple questions about the Trinity, church history, or even what the four Gospels are. Christians are going to need to relearn their faith in order to bring it forward into the future.
2. Participation in spiritual practices
Just like Christians have lost the knowledge of the faith, they have also lost how to experience their faith. We need to rediscover the joys of prayer and Bible study. We have to learn again how to engage in worship. We need to recover some of the lost disciplines like lectio divina, sabbath, silence and solitude, and tithing (or at least regular sacrificial giving). We will also need to live out the external disciplines like service and care for the poor. A faith that is not active will be rejected in the future church. That kind of faith is being rejected now.
3. Authentic spiritual community
There was a time when the church was the center of people’s social lives. This is no longer the case. So often people see each other only on Sunday mornings. The new normal is for people to make it to church only once or twice a month, so some church members may only see each other every month or two. I do not think the church will ever again the center of social life, but I do believe that the coming changes in the church will require Christians to function as a deep spiritual community. Our church must move into the future together as one body. This also means that lines and distinctions of denominations and theological family trees are going to become less important.
4. Minds open to fresh expressions of church
The church of the future is going to look very different than its modern form. Ministries are going to spring up that would not fit in a typical programmatic model. Ministries may have less prayer and teaching and may be more community oriented. They may be more fun oriented and less study oriented. They may not even happen in the walls of the church. As these new forms of church spring up, Christians will need to have open minds.
5. A focus on Christ
Modern church has wrestled over models of ministry. Some have argued for attractional ministry where we try to bring people in. Others have presented a missional model, where the church is sent out into the world. I would argue for a lift-up-ssional church. Jesus once said that if He was lifted up then he would draw all people to Himself. The church of the future will need to focus on lifting Jesus up–to make him primary and central to our lives. As we lift Christ up, then Christ will draw people to Himself. This will be attractional. Our lives will attract others to Christ. It will also be missional. We will be driven to lift up Christ in all areas of our lives. I propose that the only future for the church will be a lift-up-ssional church.
The Church belongs to Christ. It cannot die. Christ will take care of it. But it will change, and new forms of church will present new challenges for Christians. We need to get ready.