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. Share on X

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. Share on X

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. Share on X

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. Share on X

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. Share on X

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.

-Jonathan

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!