Here are Eight Keys to Unlocking the Future of your Church
Key Number One: How to minister in a Multi- cultural world
The boats are no longer coming to North America from Europe. Mainline denominations are finding it impossible to become multi cultural in spite of their resolutions and affirmative action. As long as denominations remain dominated by European forms of worship, they’ll never develop multi-cultural congregations. European forms of worship are so foreign to most cultures that they are one of the primary barriers to multi-cultural congregations. Pentecostal congregations have long been multi-cultural because their worship style is close to the basic language of the world – Rock-n-Roll.
The key to multi-cultural ministries is to learn to respect and implement the culture of the people group you are trying to reach. Above all else, this means learning to appreciate and utilize the music of the culture.
Key Number Two: Avoid the folly of pluralism and ecumenism
The new, emerging ecumenism of today is around mission, not theology or a common table. Leaders interested in hammering out ecumenical relationships based on a common theology like the Consultation on Church Union, are already seeing the futility of their efforts. In the same way denominations that are trying to merge churches to salvage them will continue to decline.
Healthy leaders are not interested in getting denominations back together in one big happy family. Instead, they are advancing the Kingdom by getting multiple denominations to work together around a mission too big for one denomination to achieve on its own. Denominations that continue to focus on ecumenism or church mergers are on their way out.
Instead, authentic churches are trans-denominational. They are crossing denominational lines to work with churches of other denominations with which they have missional affinity. These congregations work together around a common mission with little regard for theological differences.
Key Number Three: Churches will have to learn how to use the World Wide Web as well as it has learned to use books
Ten years ago I didn’t spend much thought or time on the importance of a website to the growth of a church. Now it has become the major entry into the church. Before attending a church most people now look at the church before they decide to attend.
The same is true for online giving. Today, if a church doesn’t have online giving it is missing 10-20 of its potential income. My guess is by 2025 paper money will be on the decline and credit cards will be the primary way of exchange. I seldom carry much money any more.
More and more people will worship online without ever attending the church. They will consider themselves just as much a member as those who attend on Sunday or whenever.
The Internet will continue to grow until it’s the primary form of communication, information, commerce, and networking throughout the world. The embedded Net will be the number one way communication takes place and information is gathered in the twenty-first century. It could replace the fax, the postal service, and Ma Bell as we know them.
Those who say that the cyberchurch is not authentic because it cannot offer valid community, simply have not been part of a cyber-community. We have watched our online forums plan face to face meetings on numerous occasions. Those who refuse to see the authenticity of the electronic church are no different from those who said that the printed Bible would never catch on because people could not read.
In this global/tribal, multi-cultural world the Internet is becoming the vehicle for both world wide and grass roots communication. It promises to offer us the best chance to respect and nurture some of the most obscure languages and cultures of the world. The cross-cultural exchange will be enormous. It will allow people in the most remote areas of the world to communicate with people across the planet in different languages because of web browsers that automatically translate languages.
Key Number Four: Large churches will replace the efforts of denominations in the past
The majority of church planting is already being done by local churches. Four things are driving this trend: one, it is main biblical reason for a churches existence; two, most denominations are running out of money; three, it is easier to grow a new church than to transition a dying one; and four, most churches older than 30 years are located in the wrong places. The people have moved but the churches haven’t.
Key Number Five: By the mid 2000s most of the growing churches will be multi-site
Over the past five years the multi-site movement has continually gained momentum. It is now to the point that it is not a fad but a trend. The trend started out as an alternative to relocation due to outgrowing the location. Now it is a strategy that many church plants begin with. I’ve worked with many of these churches and know one thing drives them and it isn’t because of the need for space. It is because it has become a Kingdom issue. These churches have realized it is not only good from expansion but more importantly it is the way the early church existed – not in one place but scattered all over the city. I expect this trend to continue to escalate.
Key Number Six: Churches that want to reach the younger generations will have to learn how to address a totally new and different form of ethical questions
Bio-genetics will become the primary theological battle ground replacing today’s flashpoints of gay rights, abortion, and gender. The farther we go into the 21st century the more the church will have to respond to the growing scientific evidence from the human genome project. The church will have to respond to the “My genes made me do it” excuse. And it won’t be enough for the younger generations to simply say “Because the Bible says so.” The question is “Will we respond the ways we have in the past when science and religion come into conflict? Of course there is a biblical answer to this challenge- admitting that all sin is genetic and that we don’t have to give in to our base nature. The one thing the church will not be able to do and survive is to keep selecting a handful of issues and pointing fingers at them. It will be interesting to see what will happen
Key Number Seven: Churches will have to learn how to worship in vastly different ways
Of all the issues, this one should be the most obvious. But as all my emails used to end with “The unmotivated are impervious to the obvious.” The majority of congregations worship as if they are still in Europe and/or providing worship for people coming from Europe.
The experience economy is not going away. Whatever it is, worship, education, etc, if it doesn’t entertain, stimulate, and touch all of the senses, it won’t educate or be worshipful. Church leaders will have to get over their bias against entertainment if they want to communicate the gospel. Of course, the opposite is true . . . entertainment without the gospel is meaningless. However, no more meaningless than many of the worship services I’ve seen lately.
Sesame Street began the trend in 1969 when it launched a truly revolutionary method of combining education and entertainment. The trend in children’s education continues to become more entertaining with programs such as Barney and Blues Clues.
The Arts and visuals will be vital to the worship experience. Pre-Christian churches are taking on the characteristics of a gallery that includes great pieces of art from every recorded period in history. Spectacle and meditation are replacing reverence and praise. Ancient and future are merging. Secular and religious are blurring. Preaching is more Q&A and conversation than oratory. Everyday food and drink are becoming part of the liturgy. Mystery is back. Incense is in. Sarcasm is okay.
Key Number Eight: Churches will have to be theologically holistic
The goal must be to change the city rather than to grow a church. So the most effective measure of effectiveness is how much penetration into a city does a church make.
In the same way churches must embrace social action and evangelism. You can’t have one without the other and have the Gospel. I’m thankful that many churches are coming to this realization.
How does your church stack up?
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