The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Nine

We are looking at the reason the Church, when it is healthy is meant to be revolutionary. It is because its Founder, Jesus, was a revolutionary. We are digging in to our understanding of Jesus as a revolutionary by looking at the record of His life and ministry recorded for us by Matthew, a disciple of Jesus who was appointed as one of the first apostles in the early Church.

One of the most intriguing insights into Jesus is His recognition that He was a person in process. He perceived the many trials and challenges He endured as means of demonstrating His obedience and shaping His character. As Jesus the divine Son, He was truly complete: but as Jesus the Deity made man, He underwent many of the same growth pains that we experience. Perhaps that refined sense of timing enabled Him to have greater patience with the daily battles He faced.

The most compelling aspect of His self-image, though, is that He understood His role to be a twofold mission: to love God and to love people. That perception is simple but not at all simplistic. As the embodiment of love, Jesus tangibly modeled various facets of love – compassionate love, tough love, enduring love, forgiving love – as well as the dramatic impact authentic love has on the world.

Our self-image creates the infrastructure through which we respond to the world. What are the lessons for you and me in how Jesus, the Saviour of the world, saw Himself?

1> HIs priorities in life:

You devote yourself to doing what you believe is the highest priority in life. Sometimes you may protest that you are a victim of circumstances or others’ expectations, but your choices reflect what you believe to be most important.

Jesus clarified His priorities by speaking about them and then supporting those words with action. If we are to follow in His footsteps, we must embrace and pursue the same priorities to which He was committed. His mind was locked into the Kingdom of God; He even taught His followers: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).

What are the priorities that reflect our absolute sellout to the Kingdom of God?

  • Obedience to God. “But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:19b)
  • Love. “But I say, love your enemies! … If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” (Matthew 5:44, 46)
  • Justice. “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
  • Peace. “God blesses those who work for peace.” ( Matthew 5:9)
  • Holy Living. “… let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)
  • Integrity. “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t’” (Matthew 5:37)
  • Generosity. “When you give to someone in need, … give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2, 4)
  • Spiritual connection. “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.” (Matthew 4:10)
  • Spiritual wholeness. “Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
  • Biblical literacy. “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? … Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures.” (Matthew 19:4, 22:29)
  • Faith in God. “Because of your faith, it will happen … You don’t have enough faith … If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed … nothing would be impossible … But with God, everything is possible.” (Matthew 9:29, 17:20, 19:26)
  • Blessing people. Jesus not only regularly taught this, but His constant healing of, training, and praying for others, demonstrated how to bless them.
  • Disciple-making. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19).

Apparently, that’s a life agenda worth dying for…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Eight

We are looking at Jesus as a revolutionary. Let me remind you of the definition of a revolutionary: someone committed to the thorough replacement of an established system of government in the hope of seeing radical change in society and social structures.

We saw that Jesus reformed government – and took us out of the world’s governmental system and gave us the grace and empowerment for self-government. And, that because of this He could live in the world but not be of the world. He belonged to a different kingdom, God’s Kingdom, and so lived a life that was noticeably different and very attractive. As revolutionaries we are to live the same way as He did – being imitators of Christ, as Paul wrote.

No person ever practiced what he preached better than Jesus did. If His assignment for us is to be revolutionaries, we have an intimate knowledge of that that means largely through His earthly example. He was relentlessly self-disciplined. The consistency of His words and behaviour transformed every place and every person He encountered.

I really encourage you to take some time to read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life with the intention of discerning her attributes and actions that gave Him this power to transform. Too often we write off His influence, protesting that He was, after all, God, and therefore His ways are beyond our grasp. But that’s just an excuse we hide behind to avoid the challenge of revolutionary living. His life is our model. A true revolutionary accepts the challenge to be fully Christlike, as impossible as it may seem at the start of the quest. Remember, nobody starts out a champion; only those who are single-minded in their determination to reach lofty goals become unrivalled leaders.

As you study the Gospels for lessons and clues, notice that Jesus ignored customs, expectations, and even laws in order to be all that God intended. His focus shows us, in the flesh, what is possible and how to make the most of every opportunity provided by God. Let’s take a brief look at His life in the next few blogs, seen in the book of Matthew, to discover how you can transcend the moral and spiritual gravity of this world to enter a revolutionary orbit.

His identity….

Jesus had the right to have a chip on His shoulder. But from the moment we meet Him all we find is humility. Think about His choices and how He responded to various circumstances. He was baptized by someone whose very salvation was dependent upon being forgiven by Jesus. He refused to accept titles or even simple accolades. He did nothing to call attention to Himself; in fact, He generally shunned the spotlight and avoided situations that would bring notoriety and acclaim. He consistently exhorted people to demonstrate humility and to realize that their stature is determined by God, not by what they or others say.

Despite the human tendency to proclaim and prove one’s independence, Jesus recognized and freely acknowledged His total dependence upon God. In both His public ministry and His private life, He lived as a servant seeking to be used by God the Father. His self-worth was not based on His own performance; it was based on how faithfully He did the will of God and operated in the power of the Spirit.

Unlike many people who assume power our influence, Jesus was never under the delusion that His service to humankind would produce universal applause and adulation. Aware that He was a warrior in the invisible spiritual battle, the Man from Galilee went to great lengths to preach to His colleagues and prepare them to embrace their inevitable social standing: targets for misunderstanding, hatred, discrimination, and persecution. The picture He painted for fellow revolutionaries was appallingly unattractive – and it reflected His acute awareness of His place on earth.

More next time…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Seven

The Webster dictionary defines a revolutionary as someone committed to the thorough replacement of an established system of government in the hope of seeing radical change in society and social structures.

Various historians have argued that Jesus Christ was the most significant person in history, having the deepest and broadest influence of any person ever. Few profiles of world changers leave Him out of the mix. Whether He gets the top ranking or not, the fact that people around the world continue to recognize His lasting impact on humanity some two millennia after His departure from earth is evidence of a revolutionary life.

We also noted that Jesus Christ is the focal point of the life of every Christian who is a revolutionary today. It is His call to revolutionary living that beckons us and guides us on this path.

But what made Jesus a revolutionary? This is an important question to ponder as we are called to be imitators of Christ. So, we need to look at and learn from His example.

Two critical insights into the revolutionary lifestyle can be gleaned from how Jesus behaved on earth.

The first relates to the objective of replacing an established system of government. We know that Jesus was not a political reformer in the sense of seeking position or power in the public arena. But He did want to reform government – self-government. His message was clear: you cannot rely on public policies and the enforcement of laws to shape your character and lifestyle. It is not your title, fame, fortune, or network that gives you lasting influence; that comes from who you are, in light of your character, your values, and your core beliefs. It is those components that drive the decisions and activities of your life.

So, if you are a Christian revolutionary, it is because you have sensed and responded to God’s calling to be an imitator of Christ. It is not the Church’s responsibility to make you into this mold. It is not society’s job to push you in this direction. You are responsible for who you are. Your choice to become a revolutionary – and it is a choice – is a covenant you make with God alone. The commands and admonitions provided by Jesus to all who would listen were designed to facilitate self-governance that makes each disciple a revolution in progress.

The second insight relates to how an appropriately self-governed follower of Jesus is expected to live. In John 17, Jesus spoke to His followers regarding their responsibility, giving birth to the widely known but inadequately invoked calling to “be in, but not of, this world.” In other words, through consistent devotion to biblical principles manifested in a noticeably different mind-set and lifestyle, the disciple is called to influence the world rather than to be influenced by it. 

In a similar manner, then, you and I are called to  be revolutionaries by conforming to the will of God and letting that affect every life and decision within our reach. We are not revolutionaries because we join a community of like-minded people, although such ties are integral to our personal development and our spiritual identity. We become revolutionaries through our absolute commitment to think and behave like Jesus in order to show our love for God, and to love other people through our positive influence on their lives.

What does a revolutionary’s life look like? Jesus showed us that our strategy is evident through our priorities. His example teaches that the weapons we use are our demeanour, character, and the presence of the Holy Spirit of God working through us. And His Words instruct us that the mark of success is the identity and the commitment we bring to the role. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Six

We are seeing a large number of new alternatives to the traditional format of the local church. There are micro-models and macro-models (see the previous day’s blog). Will there be a macro-model, similar in magnitude to the congregational format of the local church, to replace that dominate but declining model? It does not seem likely. In fact, some extensions of the congregational model, such as the ‘emergent’ or ‘postmodern’ congregations, really are not new models but simply minor refinements of the reigning model.

Ultimately, we should expect to see believers choosing from a proliferation of options, weaving together a set of favoured alternatives into a unique tapestry that constitutes the personal ‘church’ of the individual.

While this patchwork of spiritual experiences and expressions will produce a seemingly incoherent and indecipherable religious landscape, it will also render people’s spiritual lives more exciting because they will be able to respond to immediate needs and possibilities. The fragmented nature of the new approach to spirituality, often lamented by analysts as an unfortunate consequence of our disjointed culture and spiritually illiterate population, will become the advantage that facilitates a deeper commitment to spiritual focus by millions of young people. 

As for the revolution, it is composed of millions of people who have already embraced the freedom and excitement introduced through new macro- and micro-models. The central message of the current revolution rings out from these experiences: revolutionaries (true disciples of Jesus embracing change) will respond to the presence and principles of God whenever and wherever possible, without regard to historical or societal inhibitions. The standard that concerns revolutionaries is simple: does the mechanism provide a way of advancing my faith, without compromising Scripture or any of the passions of a true believer?

Next time we will look at the Leader of the revolution – Jesus the revolutionary. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Five

As we look at the changes in society and thus the needed changes in the Church we realize that we really are in a revolution. We saw that those who are dissatisfied with the stats quo, and feel the Holy Spirit calling them to seek for and embrace more, have seven basic passions. These were discussed earlier in the series. They are:

1> Intimate worship

2> Faith-based conversations

3> Intentional spiritual growth

4> A place to serve (servanthood)

5> Resource investment

6> Spiritual friendships

7> Family faith

As a result of these passions we see the the introduction of number of new faith-based models when we think about “church”. Some are ‘macro-models’ – all-inclusive faith communities that address the complete array of passions that lead a person to a Christlike life. Other expressions are ‘micro-models’ – narrowly focused assemblies that commit to genuine growth in relation to one off the seven spiritual passions in particular.

The ‘macro-models’…

There are four macro-models of church experience we see in the church world today; The dominant force is the congregational form of the local church which is well known by all and has a long history. House churches – some call them ‘simple church’ fellowships – are yet another holistic model. These are small aggregations of people who meet in someone’s home on a regular basis to fulfill the functions of a traditional congregation, especially elements such as worship, teaching, fellowship, and stewardship. To note: these are not the same as the widespread small groups, cell groups, and home fellowships that are spawned by local churches to supplement what occurs on the local church campus. They are stand alone, biblically-based churches that meet in homes.

The family faith experience is a third holistic model, in which the family becomes the primary spiritual unit and pursues faith matters together, with parents and children (and often members of the extended family) becoming a close-knit faith community. The fourth holistic model is the cyber church. This refers to the range of spiritual experiences delivered through the internet.

It is worth noting that the two fastest-growing macro-models of church are the house church and cyber church formations.

The ‘micro-models’…

But it is the micro-models that are growing the fastest of all. These might be considered the distributed models of faith. These models promote growth in a specific aspect of the seven passions, expecting that the energy released through that focus will motivate the believer to incorporate growth in the the other areas of passion as well.

One of the best examples of micro-models is the popularity of independent worship events that occur throughout the world. Not associated with a specific church or denomination, these gatherings feature one or more “worship gypsies” – individuals like Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, and dozens of regional favourites – who constantly travel to gatherings of believers, playing extended sets of worship music for audiences who had no prior connection to each other. The events are designed to help people connect with God through an intense worship experience. Often, the event leads those who participated to not only upgrade their worship quotient but also get more serious about other aspects of their spiritual life. The event makes no attempt to build a congregation or enduring local ministry of any type. The effort is geared towards getting people to worship God and grow from that foundation.

Other distributed models include marketplace fellowships, coaching communities, and narrowcast Internet-based faith groups, as well as the prolific number of para-church ministries that are generally unidimensional in their focus. A hallmark of such distributed models is that they are not simply one-time events but are part of a larger ministry effort designed to supplement the person’s incremental spiritual growth. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Four

A Century ago, carmaker Henry Ford professed his willingness to give people choice in their selection of colour for his cars. “People can have a Model T in any colour they want – as long as it’s black.” That is pretty similar to the view of many Christians regarding how people should pursue spiritual growth – through any means they want, as long as it is connected to the efforts of the local church.

The revolution we are currently seeing happen is changing the way in which people anchor and express their faith pursuits. For some revolutionaries, their local church is the foundation of their faith journey. For many others, a local church plays a minor role in their journey. And, for many others, the traditional local church is nowhere to be found on their agenda. But, let it be noted that a majority of those who are revolutionaries are involved in some form of “church.”

The church connection has to do with the new models of “church” that are being conceived, developed, explored, and embraced by many believers and non-believers in nations around the world. The congregational model, which is still the dominant form of the “church” experience today, is rapidly being joined  – and for many believers replaced – by various alternatives.

The congregational model of the Church – a definable group of people who regularly meet at the same place to engage in religious routines and programs under the guidance of a paid pastor who provides doctrinal teaching and organizational direction – has been the dominant force in people’s spiritual lives for hundreds of years. So why is it so rapidly losing ground at this moment in history?

Perhaps the major reasons are people’s insistence on choices and their desire to have customized experiences. The issue of choice is remaking many facets of modern experience. Whether you examine the changes in broadcasting, clothing, music, investing, or automobiles, producers of such consumables realize that people world-wide want control over their lives. The result has been the ‘niching’ of most areas of life – where there has been the creating of highly refined categories that serve smaller numbers of people, but can command greater loyalty. 

During the past three decades, even the local church has undergone such a ‘niching’ process, with the advent of churches designed for different generations, those offering divergent styles of worship music, congregations that emphasize ministries of interest to specialized populations, and so forth.

The Church landscape now offers these boutique churches along side the something-for-everyone megachurches. In the religious marketplace, the churches that have suffered most are those who stuck with the one-size-fits-all approach, typically proving that one-size-fits-nobody. Whether the niche-orientation of a church was designed to provide yet another alternative to choose from, to satisfy an underserved market (i.e., create a customized experience), or to address previously unmet and misunderstood needs (i.e., provide relevance), new models hit a hot button in a need-meeting culture.

But, the motivations for seeking new models do not stop there. Other drivers behind the move to new models include the preference for practical faith experiences, rather than generic, conceptual faith; a quest for spiritual depth and breath, rather than settling for one dimension or the other; a penchant for novelty and creativity, rather than predictability in religious and spiritual experiences; and the need for time-shifting, rather than inflexible scheduling of religious events. 

One outcome of the multifaceted push for new spiritual models has been the rise of unique, highly personalized church experiences. Few people now have the same faith development patterns and resources that comprise their journey. Two decades ago, typical Christians went to Sunday school at nine o’clock Sunday morning, then flowed in the worship service at eleven. They might have participated in a Bible study group or maybe a family service on Wednesday night at seven. And many believers prayed before meals and at the beginning or end of their day, and read the Bible a couple of mornings before settling into their daytime routine.

Now it is virtually impossible to craft a ‘typical’ spiritual pattern, especially among people under the age of forty. Growing numbers of young adults, teenagers, and even adolescents are piecing together spiritual elements they deem worthwhile, constituting millions of personalized “church” models. The proliferation of new elements available through the Internet, television, radio, diversified social networks, community action cooperatives, and via live arts environments is ensuring that future models of “church” will be almost impossible to categorize or market. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Three

When people within traditional churches have a life-changing, life-altering, transformational encounter with the Living God, they come back to their local assembly and want to share what has happened to them. Because the local church often majors on education and not encounter (with God) the transformed person does not always find understanding nor acceptance. 

So, statistics show that people most often encounter God and thus have a transformational experience outside of the influence of the local church. And, that when they go back to their local church the experience and even the person is not welcomed. In other words, the leaders of the local church want to continue to carry out its existing slate of events and programs without attempting to alter a stable and well-planned ministry simply because one or more members of the local church have discovered distinctive ways of connecting with and being shaped by God. 

Most of these transformed people have the same attitude as Peter and John, who said to the leaders who rebuked them, “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20). Deeply moved by their experiences, they continue to seek growth opportunities wherever they can be found. This often puts them at odds with the leadership of the local traditional church. In a deep need to be with others who share their passions, revolutionaries often end up leaving the local church and fellowshipping with other like-minded disciples in smaller groups now often called “house churches.”

The result of this move of the Spirit and the rise of many who are looking for more is that literally millions of people are being radically affected by the presence and power of God that is being manifested through the house churches. Because of the relatively small size of the house church movement as compared to the traditional church – these people and the life-changing experience and encounter with God they have experienced – are not always noticed or counted. The impact of the house church movements, however, is massive although virtually invisible. But, in my opinion, the cumulative effect is nothing sort of the redefinition of the nature and face of ministry in nations around the world. 

When we look at the lives that have been changed and transformed – most often outside of the local traditional church – we see some unique elements of these non-traditional ministries through which this transformation is realized. 

1> The house churches are generally working with people who are predisposed to focusing on their faith in God. In other words, these people are hungry for more and are willing to change. They have made a decision to prioritize their faith. Once they have made that decision, it simply becomes a matter of which connections will most readily foster transformation. The house church becomes a valid vehicle for this desired transformation. 

2> The house church movement emerges as a prime candidate for engendering such growth because it becomes an individual’s primary source of relationships. The conversations and experiences shared by people in the house church become a kind of closed circle that energizes itself to the point of multiplied returns on the investment. The level of accountability and the heightened focus on spiritual development generate very positive outcomes. 

3> The intimacy experienced within the house church facilitates a sense of exhilaration over the transformation. This is because ‘transformation’ is a clear group goal (see point 4).

4> Since the house church exists to encourage positive spiritual growth and personal transformation, their planned activities center on such results. When those results are evident, word travels fast, and there is a general feeling of joy.

5> The house church encourages a very narrow and often single focus. This focus – be it service, music, prayer, or whatever – serves primarily as an entryway into the mind and heart of the individual. Often, once the person becomes immersed in the life and activity of the house church, he or she is presented with a variety of spiritual challenges and opportunities that get blended into transformational activities.

A result of this transformation is a realization that the traditional church is not – and need not be – the epicentre of a person’s spiritual journey and adventure. This is a mind-boggling realization for many since it conflicts with the teaching they have received, sometimes since their infancy. But many report that it has been a freeing insight. It has enabled them to mature in unique ways that may not have happened had they closed themselves off the the possibility of God meeting them in other places and ways.

God is still active in the lives of those people who are wholeheartedly devoted to and searching for Him – no matter what door they enter on their journey to Christlikeness. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-Two

The move today in the Church that Jesus is building is away from information for the sake of information. True disciples of Jesus are not against learning more so that they can better live by the truth. As a result, what they are looking for is transformation and not just information. They want teaching that aims at the heart and not the head.

There is nothing more affirming and exciting than knowing that God is active in the lives of those who seek His truth and His touch. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the passion and enthusiasm of those people for the God who revealed Himself in such personal and restorative ways.

Let’s settle on what I mean by transformation. This is a critical issue because the revolution is so centred on the idea that each of us is called to be continually transformed through the renewing and reshaping power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual transformation is any significant and lasting transition in your life wherein you switch from one substantial perspective or practice to something wholly different that genuinely alters you at a very basic level. 

Switching from one church to another is not transformational. Determining to live in accordance with the a biblical worldview is. Attending an adult Bible study after a lengthy absence is not transformational. Identifying one’s giftedness, grasping the call to use those gifts for the Kingdom, and initiating a lifestyle of service to other is. 

Transformational is a significant spiritual breakthrough in which you seize a new perspective or practice related to the seven passions we have been looking at (see note below) and, consequently, you are never the same again. The transformation redefines who you are at a fundamental and foundational spiritual level, and your lifestyle is realigned according to that part of your being that was finally awakened to the things of God.

It is interesting that statistics appear to show that most people who would say they have had a “transformational” experience with the Lord did so outside the local church. Although good things still do happen within the local church it has been discovered that the majority of people who would say they have encountered and experienced the Living God as found in Jesus Christ – did so outside the local church, often with the help of ministries that are not flowing from the traditional local church.

One of the key ministries where life transformation is the house church movement. Although still relatively small in numbers and so often not determined to be significant – people are having transformational moments with the Holy Spirit in these smaller, non-traditional settings. People often join house churches because they are looking for a small group of people who share their passions (again, see the list below). House church people tend to be single-minded and intently focused on God with a passion not always seen in other Christian gatherings. This focus and intensity enables the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to their lives and build them into revolutionaries. 

To Note:

A reminder of what the seven core passions for a revolutionary are (from previous blogs in this series):

1> Intimate worship

2> Faith-based conversations

3> Intentional spiritual growth

4> A place to serve (servanthood)

5> Resource investment

6> Spiritual friendships

7> Family faith

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty-One

Let’s complete our look at the seven trends currently unfolding in society and in the Church as younger people begin to exert greater influence on the direction our world and the Church is taking. We have looked at six of the seven…

Trend #1: The Changing of the Guard

Trend #2: The Rise of a New View of Life

Trend #3: Dismissing the Irrelevant

Trend #4: The Impact of Technology

Trend #5: Genuine Relationships

Trend #6: Participation in Reality

Trend #7: Finding True Meaning

Our last major trend seen as a result of the world view of the younger generations is that they are seeking for true meaning. Every generation wades through the murky waters of life’s meaning. The discovery process is never easy, and the answers are often a long time coming. The eternal struggle to find meaning in life – which cannot occur without recognizing how God has designed us and how to apply that design to the context in which we live – is in full force today. 

Despite all the advances in technology and communications, our society’s complexity and fragmentation have only served to heighten the struggle to make sense of our place in the world.

One of the most startling signs of growth, though, is the younger generations accelerated openness to understanding themselves through two components that have been largely ignored for many decades: sacrifice and surrender. Granted, this commitment or pattern is not widespread at this moment, but we are seeing growing numbers of people who are considering sacrifice and surrender as the possible missing links to their maturation and fulfillment. 

Wrapping things up on this part of our journey into “The Church That Jesus Is Building”…

So we have a new spiritual landscape. Whether or nor you currently understand the implications of these trends, two things are true. First, you don’t have to like the outcomes of things you cannot change, but you do have to deal with them. Second, the more you can anticipate some of the transitions resulting from these trends, the greater will be your ability to help shape the world in ways that are likely to honour God and advance your spiritual maturity. This will impact your own life and the lives of others with whom you interact. 

What outcomes are likely in the spiritual landscape of the world as a result of these seven trends?

Perhaps the most significant relates to how increasing numbers of people will be most likely to experience and express their faith in the coming years. A radical transformation is in progress related to the means through which people’s faith is made real.

As we entered into the 21st Century, the local church was the focus of most people’s spiritual lives. About 70 percent of born again Christians relied upon some local congregation to be their dominate source of spiritual input and output. A few individuals – roughly 5 percent of the population (a North American statistic) – were engaged in a faith journey that revolved around some alternative type of faith community. A similar small percentage of people identified their family as their primary faith pod. A larger, but still minority, group (an estimated 20%) turned to various cultural sources – the media, the arts, or other institutions – as the outlets designated to satisfy their faith needs. 

The seven cultural trends described in this part of a rather long series of blogs, have unleashed a massive shift in emphasis. By the year 2025, the spiritual profile of many nations will be dramatically different. Specifically, we can expect that only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means of experiencing and expressing their faith; one-third will do so through alternative forms of faith-based community; and one-third will realize their faith through the media, the arts, and other cultural institutions. Unfortunately, as far as anyone can determine, the family will remain a mere blip on the radar screen when it comes to serving as the conduit for faith experience and expression, remaining central to perhaps 5 percent of any given people group. 

I celebrate the development of new ways for people to grow and reach maturity in their faith. The relatively compromised and complacent state of faith in most nations today suggests that any new means through which people – especially younger people – can make their faith come alive and become more center stage in their lives, without conflicting with scriptural imperatives, will represent a welcome breath of fresh air in the stagnant landscape of most national and local churches. 

As I said, you don’t have to like this transition, but you must deal with it. You can approach it with a defensive, negative attitude, or you can deal with it in the hope of learning and experiencing great breakthroughs in your life and in your church. The choice is yours. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Thirty

We are looking at societal trends that are effecting the Church today in our world. These trends are because we are living in a post-modern society. One of the changes rising out of these trends is that many are now dissatisfied with the Church and are looking for massive change in the Church or simply leaving the institutional version of the Church. 

These people are often called revolutionaries – but really they are simply disciples of Jesus who are sensing a move of the Spirit in their hearts causing them to look for the true Church as found expressed in the New Testament.

We are looking at societal trends … So far we have examined 4 of 7 …

Trend #1: The Changing of the Guard

Trend #2: The Rise of a New View of Life

Trend #3: Dismissing the Irrelevant

Trend #4: The Impact of Technology

Trend #5: Genuine Relationships

Busters and Mosaics (today’s younger generations) place a much higher premium on genuine personal relationships than do their predecessors. They are not necessarily more adept at this process. But they certainly pursue meaningful relationships rather than passing acquaintances, and they are more likely to invest themselves in the messiness of other people’s issues than to pass along superficial advice. They devote a greater share of their time each day to keeping up those connections. They are, in the vernacular, “people people.”

As the younger generations wield their increasing influence in the development of media content, institutional behavioural, the reshaping of societal customs, and accepted notions regarding relational activity, we are becoming a society increasingly focused on personal authenticity rather than excellence in performance. As the years go by, the balance of excellence and authenticity will gradually shift to the latter. 

In ministry and other areas, we will emphasize personal stories and experiences instead of principles and commands. We will show a growing appreciation for leaders who operate within a team context rather than those who exhibit charisma and dynamism as captivating solo practitioners. Organizations that demonstrate inclusiveness will grab our allegiance over those that are perceived to be narrow or judgmental.

Trend #6: Participation in Reality

More and more young believers are becoming entrepreneurs. They are hands-on in their lifestyle and work situations. With the proliferation of technology, the rise of women in positions of marketplace leaderships, and the educational emphasis upon the practical rather than the conceptual, people expect to be active and creative participants in developing the reality of their experience. Fewer and fewer people are willing to sit back and endure what the world throws at them; rather, they are seeking the means to exert greater control over their lives. As time goes on, people are paying more attention to the outcomes their effort generate and are constantly refining their activities to generate more personally satisfying results.

The same mind-set is affecting the ministry context. There is more enthusiasm for creating personal dialogue with non-Christian friends than for bringing them to a big evangelistic event. The popularity of small groups has grown consistently as people experience the benefits of a shared experience in which their contribution matters. Short-term missions activity has exploded as growing numbers of Christians want to be a part of a ministry solution rather than merely funding it. Watch how the next few years will usher in innovative expressions of this hands-on approach to being a Christin in a non-Christian world.