We all know Western Christianity is in deep trouble. I won’t dwell on that. Instead, I want to share the secret to our future. It’s simple. The secret to our future lies in our ability to unlearn and rethink the possibilities.
The primary unlearning is that people no longer automatically come to church or think about the church. The church is no longer at the center of society, and that changes everything. The primary rethinking is that we must think like missionaries and apostles rather than pastoral care specialists or church growers. Pastoral care of members is no longer the goal of the church or the clergy (if it ever should have been). Now the goal must be what it should have always been – reaching out to a broken world with the gospel. In other words, we must become a sent church. Mission must define who we are and what we do. We must become mavericks who help our people learn how to share their faith in the marketplace and home.
The mainline camp will have the hardest time adjusting to the new reality, but adjust they must. Here are some quick quips about the adjustments several mainline groups will need to make.
- United Methodists – Our board of ministry needs to quit eliminating mavericks and evangelists from the ranks of ordained ministry.
- Presbyterians – You must give up your passion for order and adopt a “chaordic” view of ministry and the world.
- Lutherans – You must realize that the boats no longer come from Europe.
- Baptists – It’s okay to drink wine; Jesus did, and it was fermented.
- Episcopalians – You must realize that people do not have three hands.
- Disciples – You must accept that Jesus was the Son of God.
I could go on with more mainline groups, but you get the picture – many things that mean so much to each of us mean totally nothing to God or to the spread of the gospel. So let’s dump them in favor of becoming apostles, missionaries, and mavericks who think and act differently from how we thought and acted in the past.
Why are so many of us refusing to admit that we can no longer sit around and wait for people to come to us? The answer is simple. Let me sum it up in the words of Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Question: What common beliefs did you have to unlearn in order to adapt to the changing face of Western Christianity? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.