This week the Texas Methodist Foundation hosted a 3 day get-together on mission and the future of the Wesleyan Church (church traditions begun or influenced by John Wesley). Rarely, have I seen so many bishops and tattoos in the same room. Clarification: no bishop, that I could tell, had a tattoo – other participants, however, had several.
For 3 days we talked, listened, and prayed together in an honest attempt to learn from the past, see the present, and anticipate the future. Many Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, and other leaders spoke candidly about the state of their church in America.
So what is the future church in America going to look like? Here is some of what I heard and thought.
The FutureChurch will have fewer buildings, if any. Sanctuaries are single-purpose, expensive, and inefficient. Worshiping communities will instead gather in missional organizations and other shared spaces – often adopting the mission of the building where they are located. The church, for instance, that worships in the school, the shelter, or the local bar and then adopts that neighborhood as their cause.
The FutureChurch will feature small groups, often unaffiliated with any particular institutional church. Groups will get resources online, watch Biblical teachers from streaming video, and the bread and wine for Communion will easily be delivered by Amazon drone.
The FutureChurch will not feel the need for a traditional pastor. Web-based resources will provide experts. Groups will realize caring for one another does not require a pastor, and an amazing amount of Biblical education will be available for free online.
The FutureChurch will be diverse. The church is the last monochrome institution in America and future Christians will insist on worshiping amidst diversity. The coming generation’s world is multi-everything and church where everyone is similar in demographic will be unsatisfying to the rising millennials and others.
The FutureChurch will layer mission into everything. Missionaries that Facetime with small groups dedicated to supporting and directly participating in the mission will be the norm. Group members will expect that close to 100 percent of financial giving will go directly to a selected mission and they will both stay in touch with that mission online and travel to experience it directly.
The FutureChurch will emphasize personal transformation as opposed to simply salvation. The FutureChurch will go beyond the current practice where membership is discipleship, where once saved the spiritual growth of the believer then stops. The FutureChurch will focus on the transformational work of the Holy Spirit that carries the believer to a saving experience of Jesus and then to limitless growth beyond.
While institutionalists will argue the current church does this now, others will say the current church is out of focus. American Christianity has been building a Kingdom of Church, as opposed to the Kingdom of God. The coming days will bring believers who insist on the transformation of the world into the latter, a people guided perhaps by Paul’s words,
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will – Romans 12:2
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