In a little over a month, I’ll turn 31. I’ve lived for three decades, and while that might not seem like a long time to some of you who are reading this blog, it is to me. I’ve lived long enough to see the rise of the internet; I can remember the first smartphone, I starred in shock at the T.V. on September 11, 2001, and was deployed to Iraq in 2006. I’ve been alive since Reagan was president and I’ve seen the cultural shift in America move to post-Christian. For we genuinely don’t know what to make of the current affairs within our country or around the world. Even more so, we aren’t sure what the future holds. Maybe the biggest question all of us ask (or should ask) is, “What will the Church look like in 30 years?”
This is a question of most concern. For, as we look at poll after poll we see that the younger generations are becoming less and less religious. With that, the rise of non-believers is increasing. Thus, I propose, to know what the Church will look like in 30 years, God’s people need to answer two central questions: What has been going on internally that has contributed to the dechristianizing of America? What has to happen to stop it? I understand that self-reflection is always severe because it is so much easier to blame others for the problems we face. We know what the culture promotes, endorses, and allows. Certainly these impact the current state of affairs within the Church. But I’m not writing to serve up red meat, I’m not going to say “win the culture war, and the church wins.” Internally, we have our issues to sort out if we want to impact the culture the way the early disciples did.
And that is the problem: we’re not concerned about multiplication we’re too worried about the church building. I firmly believe that God wants us to gather with the saints on Sunday at whatever designated times have been set in place. I’m not discounting or encouraging Christians to skip this precious time. Yet, when contrasting the ministry of Jesus to his counterparts the Pharisees and Saduccees, there is a glaring difference. The Pharisees believed being in the right physical place meant that the spiritual relationship was automatically intact, which wasn’t the truth. I fear this is where, in general, the Church finds itself in the 21st century. How many events, functions, or church programs are centered around the building? I mention all of this because, what has developed in the lives of so many, is that if they merely show up to a specific place (the church building), voila! The Christian life is being lived!
What does it profit a congregation if they build a $1 million dollar building but lose the community? What does it profit the church if we center all we do around the building to the neglect of practicality? It doesn’t seem like any good can come from either of those scenarios? Furthermore, the only example similar to that in the Bible is a group who were opposite Jesus. Matthew 28:16ff is the cornerstone of the survival of the Church, and yet, the passage notes “Therefore go…” not “Hey stay.” I fear many have the “field of dreams” mindset, “build it and they will come.”
The future of the church belongs to the community builders. Here is where I’ll probably get some emails/comments, but I think it is the truth: I disagree with just about every doctrine of the mainline denominations, however, they get community right. Here in Charlotte, NC the biggest church around is Elevation Church. I’m not a fan of the preaching nor am I a fan of the personality cult that seems to come with it but the reason it is so big isn’t just because there is a band, rock concert, and entertainment. They build community and impact the community well. Why? Because they aren’t concerned about the building. Their campuses are in theatres, old mall space, warehouses, they rent out school auditoriums, they meet in homes, small groups, and in addition to the natural community service they partake in, they dedicate one whole week to serving the greater Charlotte area, they call it “Love Week.” They connect to the community because they build community within and impact those on the outside, hoping to draw them to their family.
We may disagree strongly with what goes on inside their buildings on Sunday morning, but no one can deny what they do for the people in Charlotte. What if the urgency was placed on building community and impacting the community rather than “temple” upkeep? Will you volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center? Work the local soup kitchen? Speak to those at the local gym or YMCA? Fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ outside of Wednesday and Sunday?
Do you want to change the country? Let us look inward first, build community and impact the communities around us. If the only annual service project we partake in is a workday at the Church building, we’re a glorified temple maintenance crew and a shell of the early church. See the future doesn’t belong to the Church building it belongs to the community builders. And that is the most significant difference between the Pharisees and Jesus followers; religion and Christianity. Religion brings us to a place, Christianity brings us to a person and compels us to impact the lives of people. The future of the Church doesn’t belong to the church building but community builders.