Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Church of the Future

I have a dream. Perhaps even a vision. It's how church may look very soon. While the analysts are scrambling to gather data and statistics to see what is happening in the church and what we need to do to fix it, maybe we don't need to do anything. What if everything that is happening is by God's design? As we all ponder that question, here are some things I see.

I see a church where you feel the presence of God as soon as you approach the building, or at least when you enter the front door; not just hoping you may feel it later in the service after lights, video, music, and an entertaining orator give you an emotional buzz. I see people walking into whatever room they call the sanctuary and all you hear is the whispers and murmurings of prayer or worship; not the light-hearted chatter of people catching up with their friends' weekly events.

I see a church where only the humble are promoted to leadership while the proud and haughty are made to wait; a church where the body of believers are conditioned to respond to sincerity and honesty, not impressive cheerleading. I see believers who see through false spirituality and shun it; believers who can tell whether a Christian is looking at Jesus or himself.

I see a church where every coffee shop has been converted into a shelter for the homeless; and every bookstore into a wearhouse for clothes and food for the poor. Instead of youth recreation rooms with pool tables and ping-pong tables, I see teenagers praying at the altar for their friends and families. I see Sunday school teachers who don't feel obligated to fill up a forty-five minute class time with forty minutes of games and activities and a five-minute Bible lesson.

I see a church that spends less money on decorations if it means they could spend more on their missionaries. I see a church that refuses to spend thousands of dollars hosting a "conference", only to break even and over-work a lot of volunteers - all for the secret goal of promoting the church name and picking up a few new members.
I see a church that aggressively takes care of its own members like the church did in Acts 4:34 so that there would be "no needy persons among them."

I see a church that loves first, and asks questions later; where newcomers are presumed innocent and invited into the circle of fellowship without having to prove themselves. I see a church that loves the unlovely: a body of believers that gives the same attention to people who look vastly different than them, as to people who look like them.

When I hear about how church membership is dwindling and young people don't attend like they used to, I'm not surprised. I'm not even upset. The correct response is not, "what do we do about it?". WE can't do anything. We shouldn't do anything that we think would attract people back to church. If a church is dying, let it die. Jesus said every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Why would you want to spend time, money, and effort to keep a church on life-support? That's not a church that is truly alive. That's a church that is dead, but technically alive through false methods.

The only thing we can DO is to improve our relationship with the Lord. God is cleaning house. It's His house, let Him clean it. Don't hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. When the cleaning is done, then the churches that are bearing good fruit will be stronger than ever. People on the outside will know who the Christians are because they will see a believer as someone who belongs to that group of people who is full of the power and glory of the Almighty God.

I want to be a part of that church: the church that has less stuff but does more stuff. I want to be a part of a church that either draws you, or repulses you: one or the other - not a church that is so safe and sterile, it has no effect on you.
I pray that the church of the future is just around the corner. We need to become the church, the body, that Jesus commands us to be.