Five shifts I’d love to see the Church make over the next five years
I’m finishing up my first year of not being on staff at a church. This year has given me a different perspective than I’d had before. That new perspective has led me to question how we’re doing things and if we could do them better.
As I’ve thought about these things, I’ve been encouraged about where the Church could be a few years from now. Sure, it has some issues, but so does everything else on the planet. With a few tweaks to our approach and strategies, I truly believe we could impact the world around us in ways that have never before been seen.
Because of that, here are five shifts I’d love for the Church to make over the next five years.
Churches engage culture and speak into issues
For decades there has been a tension inside the church: do we engage secular culture or do we create our own ‘sanctified’ version of it? Unfortunately, both ends of the debate have gone too far.
On one side we have churches so intent on being culturally relevant that they don’t speak truth into issues. They dance around the outskirts of it and hope to not get burned.
On the other side you have cheesy Christian knock-offs that are embarrassing in how bad they are. I’m looking at you God’s Great Dance Floor and the God’s Not Dead movie.
My hope is that we can start engaging the culture around us in real and impactful ways. We have to speak truth but also be willing to listen to people who disagree with us. We can’t refuse to be friends with people because they believe differently than us. And we can’t refuse to talk about things for fear people will disagree with us.
We also can’t put out horrible quality culture knockoffs. Nothing says desperate to be accepted quite like trying to copy the cool kids and failing miserably. For us to engage the culture around us, we have to value being innovative and doing things at a high level of quality. The message of Jesus transcends trends so instead of trying to be cool, we need to focus on telling that message as effectively as possible.We can't refuse to be friends with people because they believe differently than us. Click To Tweet
More Christian Americans and less American Christians
This one is tricky because it’s happened subtly and over the course of the past 14 years. In the time after September 11, 2001, we’ve seen a rise in Americanism at the expense of Christianity. More and more people are deciding where they stand politically and then using the Bible to support that stance instead of letting the Bible determine where they stand politically.
No politician will ever impact our nation the way a nation of true Christ followers could.
My hope is that we can press the reset button on our priorities and remember that Jesus will always trump Trump (and any politician after him).No politician will ever impact our nation the way a nation of true Christ followers could. Click To Tweet
A new focus on the outskirts of town
I love church planting. There’s an energy and focus with church plants that is often lost in established churches. We are in the midst of a church planting boom. Every major city in America has likely had 3-5 new churches start in it over the last 3-5 years. In Knoxville alone, I can think of five churches in the last three years.
As more and more people have looked at church planting, we’ve seen great churches launched in the inner city, old neighborhoods, and growing suburbs.
But those church plants have all stopped at the outer edge of those growing suburbs.
My hope is that we will see churches take the next step and begin to enter the small towns on the outside of the suburbs. They’re the towns you hear stories about people being excited to finally get a Walmart. Unfortunately, many of them haven’t had a new church come to town in 20-30 years. My hometown, a little redneck bedroom town north of Winston-Salem, doesn’t have a single church with modern worship, casual dress, and small groups.
These towns aren’t as sexy as the inner city or the upscale suburb, but there’s a huge need that isn’t being met.Small towns aren't sexy, but there's a huge need that isn't being met. Click To Tweet
Churches embrace digital
Four songs and a 40 minute sermon isn’t going to cut it anymore. People are busier than they’ve ever been and aren’t going to church as often as in years past. For us to reach the people who are interested in Jesus but can’t/won’t come to church every week, we have to embrace the digital world.
Nothing will ever replace in-person worship and teaching environments. But we must realize it’s possible to both disciple and build communities in digital spaces.
My hope for us is that we can educate older church leaders on the strategies and impact digital platforms can have. Many pastors aren’t against digital ministry, they simply aren’t knowledgable enough to know how to do it effectively. I would love for us to see an openness to learn from the older generation and a willingness to teach from the younger. For us to do this, we are going to have to work together with respect and flexibility.We must realize it's possible to both disciple and build communities in digital spaces. Click To Tweet
The ability to innovate again
I’ve had the opportunity to work with churches across the country this year. One of the things I’ve heard from many pastors is that they feel like they’re in a rut. They don’t know what it is, but they feel like they are doing the same thing week in and week out.
The reason they feel that way is because they are.
As the American church, we’ve gotten comfortable with our musical style, our contemporary liturgy, and our teaching methods. It’s taken a few years but these all fit us like our favorite pair of jeans.
We know them.
We like them.
But worn in jeans become worn out jeans and you have to get a new pair. Our modern approaches aren’t worn out yet, but if we don’t adapt and start to try new things, they will be soon.
Unfortunately I don’t know what exactly the new things are. I have some ideas I’d try, but it’s easy to have ideas when you aren’t the one who will be held responsible for them.
My hope is that our pastors and church leaders will begin to have the confidence to try new strategies. I also hope our church goers will have the grace to let those pastors fail occasionally. The only way we innovate – and the only way we get out of the rut – is by trying, failing, learning, and adapting.The only way we innovate is by trying, failing, learning, and adapting. Click To Tweet
Those are my five wishes for the church for the next five years.
What do you want to see?
Say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Have a nice day.
PS – I’d love for you to take two seconds to rate this post below. It’s totally anonymous but it helps me improve as a writer and let’s me know what’s connecting with you the reader. Thanks a bunch!
I agree on all five points. Then again, I would have agreed ten years ago. Your point on the outskirts is my favorite. It seem young church planters are enamored with gentrification and older suburban churches are most comfortable with multi-site strategies in their familiar environs. Exurbia and rural areas are ripe for the Gospel.
I’ve been begging for a church to come into my hometown for years. We just got YoungLife for the first time this year. That’s how behind the times small towns are.
The hardest part is many of those towns are a little closed off and don’t accept “outsiders” as well as the burbs. The churches in town are also a little territorial so it makes things more difficult. It’s not impossible, but you may not see the instant 150-200 people within a year that you may see in other places.
Church Planting in non Sexy areas is such an awesome idea I’ve never thought of before. But it sounds more awesome to me than other places =)
There’s a piece of me that has always wanted to go back to my home town and do it. I’m years away from being at a place where I could ever consider it, but the thought is always there.
I’d like to hear some of your ideas on churches embracing digital. Do you mean doing digital discussion groups online? Using video teaching in different ways or on different platforms? What are your thoughts?
Oh man. There are a ton of ideas. I’ve mentioned some to you before. One of the biggest things is simplifying the weekend message. You can take out a portion of the sermon to make things easier to digest and then post that portion online during the week as a blog post. Another thing is inviting questions during the sermon through text/social media and answering those through video or blog posts during the week.
As for outside the weekend service, I think you could do discipleship classes online. Online college has perfected the model of study and discussion boards and it could be pretty easily translated to the local church. You set up the curriculum (a book, video teaching, etc) and then put together a discussion board where people can discuss what’s going on. You allow introverts to engage in the discussion where they wouldn’t have had the class been in person. You also don’t limit it to people who are available on specific times and dates.
Martin Luther once wrote, “If I had my time to go over again, I would make my sermons much shorter, for I am conscious they have been too wordy”. Yeah, that Martin Luther. Being more concise and keeping your message to 25 minutes is much more difficult than rambling for 45. Sadly many pastors seem more focused on being cool than being on point.
I think saying a lot of pastors are more focused on being cool is a little off base. I think it’s more because pastors feel the pressure to teach a topic or text completely. If they take out one of their points they feel they’re not doing the text justice. That’s why I suggested taking part of it and turning it into a blog post under Jon’s comment.
Great blog jonathan
Thanks Ray Ray!
I would like to see the church teach how to share the gospel for the average church goer better. I feel like I’ve had many friends that have been run off from the church due to someone trying to share, but not knowing how to do it gracefully, leaving the person offended. Some of that is definitely on the person, but I feel that we as the church could definitely teach in hopes of avoiding a few more of those unfortunate encounters.
Dude that’s a great thought. One of my favorite classes in seminary was my evangelism class. I went into it completely dreading it because my undergrad evangelism class was exactly what you just described. But my professor completely changed the way I look at evangelisms and sharing the Gospel.
I love that! referring back to your thought about using the online trainings/teachings, a simple illustration and how to share it and answer some FAQ’s from it would be perfect online!