It's possible that the church will change more in one year than it has in the last 50 years.
I know that can be frustrating when the big question is "How will it change?" and so often the answer is, "We don't know."
The truth is that we are all figuring it out together, and the future church will be discovered by a combination of three things:
—Figuring it out with the wisdom and experience God has given us.
—Staying connected to and integrating what culture tells us the needs are.
—God revealing what we do not yet know.
It's all three of these things woven together that will unveil the new church. Here's another way to say it.
—Human trial and error.
—Responsiveness to real needs (see note).
—Our discovery and obedience to divine intervention.
Note: Responsiveness to real needs does not suggest felt needs over biblical truth, but it does acknowledge the importance of meeting people where they are.
The future church will adopt dozens of variations to programming, leadership style, size and structure, digital and in-person and different expressions of theology and worship.
However, there are some elements that we must never walk away from in their purest possible form.
Your list might differ slightly in nuance, but my hunch is that these elements will resonate deeply with you. If you have one to add, I'd love for you to share it with us in the comment section below.
The core elements of the church in one statement:
The church is established on the person of Jesus and the Gospel message, which calls for authentic worship, based on the truth of Scripture, focused on mission and held together by authentic community.
Now let's break it down—where are you strong? What needs attention?
5 Elements That We Can't Miss as We Reinvent Church
1. An unswerving commitment to the gospel message. Jesus must always be the first word and most marking definition of any evangelical church. Theology today is often a surprising amalgamation of misinformation, individual preference, social media tweets, political overtones and personal opinion.
The only way for Christians to continue in the right direction is to start and end with the person and message of Jesus.
Jesus is the Good News (gospel). His life and promise to us is the good story. When His name is lifted up, there is immediate clarity about what you and your church believe, who you follow and what you are called to do.
I sat in a workshop years ago, where the presenter challenged us to explain the gospel in five words. We all chimed in, and here's what the presented shared: (slightly adapted)
—Love: the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus distinguishes Christianity from all other religions.
—Evil: Good and evil are real. There is an enemy.
—Rescue: God made a way to be forgiven of sin, and it's a free gift.
—Choice: It's up to you. The gift is presented, but it's your choice.
—Restoration: The once perfect relationship with God can be restored, and eternal life is yours by faith.
We can never abandon this message.
2. A deliberate expression of personal and corporate worship. If we truly believe the message of the gospel, then our overwhelming gratitude can only result in worship.
There are two forms—not styles—of worship that are a natural result of a true awareness of salvation: rescue and redemption from sin.
I begin my daily prayers with worship based on recognizing who God is, what Jesus did and my gratitude for the undeserved grace.
For me, this doesn't typically begin with worship music, but simply the worship of my heart through my own spoken words. Adding worship music is great!
Guiding, encouraging and teaching your congregation forms of personal worship is essential to developing their faith and core to the church.
There is an undeniable power that comes from worshipping together.
Admittedly, corporate worship is complicated right now because of COVID-19, and the physical buildings of your church may be temporarily closed. But even small group gatherings are powerful forms of corporate worship.
There are many ways to express worship.
It might be a walk in the woods with a half dozen friends and you all worship together there.
No matter the form of expression, worship is essential for a church to fulfill its purpose.
3. A thoughtful approach to divine truth. In an era when many "Google it" for answers to deep questions about God, establishing a baseline of biblical truth becomes a difficult position to maintain, yet that is the great responsibility of the church.
Parts of Scripture are difficult to understand, but the big picture of God's revelation and the message of redemption through Christ is clear. Yet, in today's culture, it's anything but agreed upon.
How are you helping people understand God's truth?
The Scriptures present a clear pattern of living for those who follow Christ. Our job as leaders is to teach, encourage and inspire others to live for Christ, not according to our opinions but to the teachings within God's Word.
This is practical in nature, and include things like clear biblical sermons, small group studies as well as training and opportunities for self-study.
A diet of biblical truth will strengthen the church like nothing else.
4. A passionate execution of strategy to further the mission and purpose. The book of Acts is evidence enough that the church has always had a strategic element, and the entire New Testament makes the mission and purpose clear.
Every church has a unique vision that brings the fire, fuel and flavor to their approach, but we all first follow the purpose and mission that Jesus made clear—to go and make disciples.
The church is spiritual in nature, but that has never excluded organization and strategy.
For example, Paul's missionary journeys were very strategic, and the early church he wrote about in the book of Acts demonstrated strategy as well.
The purpose of organization was never meant for control. It was about empowerment and the advancement of the gospel.
Your church should never serve the organizational strategy; it should serve you. That doesn't mean you make it up as you go or approach it without discipline, but merely being organized isn't the goal—being effective is the goal.
5. A genuine embracing of Christian community. The point of Christian community is about life together following Jesus; it's the opposite of isolation, separation and attempting to mature your faith on your own.
The reality of COVID-19 reminds me all the more of how much I miss in-person community and how important it is.
We can experience online community; it's real, and it works, but there is just something about face to face.
For example, you make a hospital visit from your phone to someone's iPad. It works. But it's just not the same, is it?
Whether it's in-person or digital, authentic community embraces:
—Honesty: Speaking the truth in love, confession, humility.
—Encouragement: Building each other up, resolving conflict, extending grace.
—Serving: Meeting real needs.
—Compassion: Carrying one another's burdens.
—Growth: Maturing your faith, continually pursuing a lifestyle that is more like Jesus.
These categories are important to help us keep focused, but they are not meant to be a scoreboard. Community is not about competition or judgement; it's for our growth, maturity and enjoyment.
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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