There are all kinds of words that we would use to describe what “church” should be like. My favorite word is transformation because it’s the direct result of a church based on the Kingdom of God. That transformation changes us, our families, our communities, our nations, and the world. That transformation will not be complete until Jesus comes. As a result, some give up on seeing transformation beyond personal spirituality and a walk with Jesus because it won’t be complete until he comes. This is a wrong response. The kingdom has begun; we are to move with the kingdom as it comes. It has been coming since Jesus came, it has come throughout the New Testament, the Early Church, church history, and even now. Jesus set the direction and pattern for the church in the Sermon on the Mount and his parables in what he expects of us. Paul further takes the Kingdom to new levels in Colossians [1:15]-20 when he talks about glorifying God in all things, all dominions, all principalities, being transformed as a result of the Gospel of the Kingdom. We should never give up on people, cities, and nations. A church that is built upon the kingdom will see lost people come to follow Jesus – but it will not stop there. A Kingdom church will engage the person, the family, the city and nation at all levels.
The hope of the future of the church rests upon her ability to live out the kingdom in the era that she exists. When I started Northwood, the big challenge of the church was relevance. Rick Warren would say the worst thing that could happen to a church was to be ignored. So Rick and many others talked about how to make the church relevant to everyday people in the city. This was and is good. Though Rick Warren is the “purpose” guru, to me more than anything he taught me how to communicate to the people in my community.The hope of the future of the church rests upon her ability to live out the kingdom in the era that she exists. Click To Tweet
The greatest challenge to the church today is not relevance but credibility. Becoming relevant is far easier than regaining lost credibility. There is a false dichotomy that exists today that is undercutting the Gospel and costing the church her credibility with the emerging and even present generations. It’s one of the reasons we have the none’s and the done. We are growing our churches with people attending while ignoring our cities and people that are treated unjustly.
You need look no further than the issue of race. The church should be leading the issue on this – it isn’t; it’s not even bringing up the rear. Look at the issue of refugees. One minute we see a dead 3-year-old washed up on the beach and we are all weeping and talking about what we are going to do – the next minute we see terrorists using it to their advantage and we ignore the entire problem. Instead of coming up with alternatives that protect us and allow us to love & serve refugees be it here OR THERE we just say too bad and do nothing at all.
Pick your poison. The church is suffering from the absence of a radical Jesus love that reaches out to the marginalized, the rejected, the unwanted, the undesirable.
Sadly, the church today is perceived as just as tribal and a voting bloc to be had as it was in the 80’s at the beginning of the moral majority that soon saw it’s undoing. Will we ever learn? Lending our spiritual authority and credibility to political parties and groups is dangerous. Jesus reached Pharisees and Sadducees and people of both those parties opposed him. I’ve learned you should always work with politicians and political leaders to see a continual transformation of the community – but when you begin to endorse those candidates and political leaders you are giving up your spiritual and moral authority to them. That never seems to turn out good.The greatest challenge to the church today isn't relevance but credibility. There's a false dichotomy that exists today that's undercutting the Gospel & costing the church her credibility with the emerging and present generations. Click To Tweet
Billy Graham wound up getting disappointed in Richard Nixon which costs him dramatically. YET, he still went to Russia to speak when it was in the full arms of communism – something he disagreed with. He remains a model for me today. Our churches are growing larger with people leaving smaller churches and a small percentage of “conversion” growth. We’ve never done church bigger and better and at the same time less people in church than anytime in American history or the global church for that matter.
It is much easier for the church to deal with personal sin than it is corporate sin. There is an expectation that the church exists to make me better so helping me get over my sin and be a better person so I am happy and my family is happy and I can keep a good job – this is what the church is to be in America today. Dealing with things like race, and reaching out to people of other religions, engaging with the poor of the city – things that challenge us and make us think and push us out of our comfort zones – we ignore. Dealing with corporate sin – like prejudice and racism, goes to the heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom and to the heart of issues of our society. When we are seen as protecting the status quo and turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering – we lose credibility. When we as the church ignore these things we have no message or no more hope than the rest of the world has to offer. Schuller said “stay away from the controversial pulpit – don’t deal with sensitive issues – it will hurt your church growth”. He was right – it will hurt your church growth with somewhere you are – but you destroy the church and compromise its credibility for the coming generations.
There is a price to be paid when we challenge our “church” cultures. I’ve learned the hard way; people will go to Africa to do mission work but still live unengaged with African Americans here. I’ve learned we want to win the world for Jesus, but refuse to be friends with people of other religions. The price for ignoring these things will be paid by the church in the next and emerging generation. My goal is not merely to have a “big” church today, but to have a thriving church that I leave my children and their children.
Culture ultimately determines the future of the church more than generational nuances. When the church ceases to be a conscience to the culture it loses its credibility. I want my church to grow – every week! I want to baptize every week. I also want to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom every week. That Gospel, doesn’t just require people “convert” to Jesus, but that I also live in a continual state of “conversion” in order that I will love others and be salt and light. Jesus save me today from myself.