The Church of 2015
With 2014 gone, many people will be contemplating how 2015 will be different than the year gone by. Some people want to lose weight, read more, travel the world or stop biting their nails. New Year’s resolutions are supposed to give us tangible goals to better ourselves for the year to come.
Resolutions however are not just for people, I believe that there are six important things that the church needs to do in 2015, if the church is to thrive, grow and be relevant in the 21st century.
1. Review what happened in 2014: What worked? What didn’t? Where did we spend our money? How did we touch people’s lives? What one word would describe 2014? Take some time and objectively look at what transpired in 2014.
2. Honestly answer the question “Why in the world would anyone want to come to this church?”: I believe that this is the biggest question that every church must ask itself. How one answers this question affects the ministry, outlook, and mission of the church. If you answer this question honestly, the answer might surprise you and scare you all at the same time.
3. Answer the question “If we closed our doors tomorrow, who would miss us?”: Is the church a place to go on Sunday morning or an impactful piece of the community? Is the church a place that is finding areas of ministry that are outside the four walls of the church? Is the church a place of community building, fellowship and service or is it just merely existing? If the your community of faith/church closed tomorrow would there be a gap, a hole, a void left in the community or even a particular neighborhood? Now the even harder question, if no one would miss us then what are we doing here? These questions speak to the heart and nature of the Church’s existence.
4. Love More: Sadly the church has received an unfortunate reputation of being cold and unloving. Now hear me out, I’m not saying that all churches are this way but every church can be more loving. Love in my opinion is at the heart of the gospel but if our love is bound by conditions then we are squandering a free gift, the free gift of God’s love given to all. (See I John 4:19) I’m not talking about “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality either; love is extended to all people from God. Christ’s teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves cannot be limited. Love and care for all of humanity is the basis of the ministry of Jesus; let’s open our hearts and our doors and love all people no matter what.
5. Stop targeting “young people” (especially if you are not going to do what it takes to keep them): First off, young people aren’t lazier than the previous generation and it’s not the iPhone’s, MTV’s or the Devil’s fault that they aren’t attending church. We know the stats and we see it happening in churches across the country, young people are leaving the church and they are leaving it in droves. Try as they might some churches are not willing to allow new, fresh, differing ideas, thoughts, theologies and beliefs in their church building. There is this unwritten understanding that “we want people to come and experience the Jesus we know even if it doesn’t speak to them.” This is another door slammed in the face of the next generation. The younger generations do not want to join committees or organizations, they want to join CAUSES. This is a huge shift from previous generations but it’s one that the church must recognize. As a minister friend once told me “the church has lost its particularity in society.” He’s right; why go to church if it means serving on a committee when you can make just as much of difference with CASA or United Way or Habitat for Humanity? Churches who have a cause to unite others with ministries they are passionate about will generally have the younger generation more invested.
6. Promote Justice: Justice comes in many different shapes and sizes and is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are simple steps that churches can do to promote justice in the world. One way that I like to promote justice is ensuring that the coffee I drink is from organizations that are Fair Trade Certified. These groups work with co-ops and farmers to make sure that the workers that pick the beans for your morning cup of joe get paid a fair wage; it’s a win-win. You get great coffee (or tea or chocolate) and the workers can provide for their families. There are dozens of organizations focusing on the promotion of justice in the world like International Justice Mission and World Vision International to name a few. God is calling the church in 2014 to look outside of its walls and extend the healing ministry of Christ to all people, in all places and at all times.
The church to be impactful in the 21st century needs to be reflective and introspective. There are many more things that I think the church should reflect, think and act on but these will serve as a good start. I’m not saying that the congregation you attend neglects these six things; some churches do some things well and others do not. The church is standing on the corner of the 21st century and the gospel. 2015 could be a pivotal year for many congregations around the world.