Few people will argue with the statement that we have entered a totally new world since 9/11. This new world had been dawning since the 1960s, but now we are fully into a new world. So what will it take to flourish in this kind of world? What are the down and dirty, quick references of which we need to constantly remind ourselves?
Five things matter most in the emerging world. Failure to understand these five shifts will result in an ineffective, unfruitful ministry.
- Relationships are to the new world what place was to the old world. Fulfilling relationships are replacing the importance of place. In the old world people often were born, lived, and retired in the same town. It was not unusual for people to have only one or two jobs their entire life. So it was natural that church people put a premium on their church building. Some even revered it. But that world is gone now. The average 20-year-old will have more than a dozen jobs in their lifetime and live in several different cities. So it is only natural that when they think of church they do not think of a building. That means that no one comes to your church because of your building. Buildings no longer grow churches. The “build it and they will come” mindset doesn’t work. So don’t put your building on your website or your worship bulletin. People don’t attend churches anymore; they come to your church because of the relationship they develop with your people. Your church might be in a barn, but if it helps people form relationships it has a chance of succeeding.
- Ecstatic joy is replacing duty when it comes to worship. In the old world most people attended worship because they felt is was their duty. They belonged to the church so they should participate in it. And they felt guilty if they didn’t attend church on a regular basis. Those days are long gone. No one comes to church anymore just because Grandma wants them to. Nor do they feel guilty because they don’t go to church. Today people only go to church because it adds value to their life. That’s why it is deadly to have written above the door to worship “enter in silence; worship in progress.” Today it’s all about joy.
- Experiencing the immediate presence of God is replacing correct theology. People don’t just want to know about God; they want to experience God. This means that worship has to connect with and tingle their spirit or they don’t return. Reverence is not what is meaningful to them. They don’t come to church to meditate; they come for a life-altering experience. They want the hair on the back of their head to stand straight up because they have encountered the living God. Today it’s all about a life changing experience with God.
- Music, arts, and Gospel are the life-blood of a church. This means that if you can say the Gospel only with words, you haven’t communicated the good news. The message is no longer just the sermon. The message today is a seamless combination of music, arts, and Word. That’s why a good worship leader is the first person you should hire.
- Process is replacing programs. In the old world people were conditioned to doing programs. Today, the more programs a church has the more likely it is to decline. Today it is imperative to put processes in place of programs. Discipleship doesn’t happen in a course and doesn’t have a curriculum. Growing churches have developed a growth process instead of doing a data dump. We are moving from content to process. People are discipled not by reading a workbook but by hanging out with a mentor who is a few steps ahead of them in their spiritual development.
Question: How have you seen these changes played out in your church? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.