The Future of Church (part 4)

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Fred said. “A man should be able to do whatever he wants in his own business. If he wants to hang posters of naked women in his office, that’s up to him. If a female employee is offended, then she should find a different job.”

My jaw hit the floor. My mind went blank. I had absolutely no response. Fred was an elder in the church. He had been a Christian for decades, yet he didn’t see any problem here. Was this what passed for Christian maturity?

Most churchgoers know someone who has professed faith in Christ for a long period of time, but doesn’t seem to exhibit any signs of the Holy Spirit’s activity. Why are we okay with this?

This article is the third in a five-part series on the future of Church. To read parts one, two, and three click here, here, and here. In this series we’re examining two questions in particular:

  • "What will the church look like after Covid-19?"

  • "How do we attract the 30-something crowd?"

I believe the answer to both questions is remarkably similar. By embracing five truths about church, we can take advantage of the current challenges to rethink, redesign, and redeploy our congregations to bear more fruit. We looked at the first three truths in the first three posts (links above). Here’s truth number four:

4. Transformation is mandatory.

A friend once preached a sermon on why people don’t like the Church. His main point? Too many people claim to belong to Christ, but don’t act like him. How can those who have been joined to Jesus, adopted by the creator of the universe, blessed with every spiritual blessing, redeemed, forgiven, granted a share in Christ’s inheritance, and sealed with his Holy Spirit, continue to act as if we were under the power of darkness?

Don’t misunderstand me. We all struggle against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We won’t live perfect lives until we reach heaven. And I’m not talking about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and trying harder to be better people. (See here and here for articles on God’s grace.) What I am talking about is the spiritual laziness that allows chronic spiritual immaturity to reign in so many of our churches.


The underlying sickness here is low expectations. We assume it's normal to have a bunch of spiritual caterpillars crawling around, when they should have long ago become butterflies. We don’t really expect people to become more like Christ. If they can clean up some of their more egregious habits, we are satisfied. We don’t expect them to be able to feed themselves from Scripture, pray without ceasing, worship with their whole hearts, love their enemies, care for the poor, and multiply disciples. Those activities are only for the super-holy. And yet, the Bible seems to indicate we should all be growing in these areas on a regular basis.

The apostle Paul says, “We tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, mature in their relationship to Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NLT)

"Transformation is mandatory."

Why is it so hard to reach the under-30 generation? They are tired of dealing with the fallout from spiritually immature people. If people in the church act as bad, or worse, than people in the world, then why bother?

The cold, hard truth is that a church filled with people who are not being transformed is not a biblical church. I believe this season is an opportunity for us to make the changes necessary to start cooperating with the work God wants to do in his people. By focusing on ministry rather than programs, relationships rather than events, and transformation rather than simply information, we can become more the people God has called us to be, and we can begin to have the impact on the world that God has called us to make.

 

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