If you were to predict the future of the Church, where do you think it’s headed?
(Not so much the style or method of doing church, but the overall strength and vitality of the Church.)
So often, that question is examined by considering the future (the unknown), but I think understanding the present (the known) can be more instructive.
Every week I talk with at least a pastor or two somewhere in the US who is asking the question of the future of the Church, and I ask them to tell me what they see happening now. That is a leading indicator.
If you think change is needed. Now is the time.
From these conversations, I’ve extracted a few questions to help you form an opinion. Your answers will inform and shape your leadership.
Without a doubt, next to the favor and grace of God, it is great leadership that will carry us through. What you do today creates the stepping-stones to your future.
Before we look at the 6 deliberate actions, here are 5 questions for your consideration:
1) Is the church losing ground, or is the enemy gaining ground?
I have great faith in the body of Christ, the Church, and the future. We know the end of the story. But perhaps the enemy is gaining ground at a faster pace than ever before. What are the implications?
2) Are some in the body of Christ following at a distance?
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.Matthew 26:57-58
I dare not judge Peter; instead, I wonder if I ever follow at a distance. What would that look like; not speaking up, not showing up, not stepping up? I’m not certain. But I do think the future will be shaped differently if we all fully engage on the front lines.
3) Has fear, division, and distraction permanently altered culture?
How are you leading toward unity inside your church in a way that impacts those outside your church in a positive way?
4) Is spiritual warfare on the rise?
The Kingdom of God has always been at war. Good vs. Evil.
Is the battle more intense now?
In the early church, the attack was clear, and the danger was evident. Today it’s more subtle, more stealth, even appearing benign.
When it comes to spiritual warfare, we are wise to neither run and hide nor chase it down. Instead, put on the armor and pray.
5) Are you developing bold spiritual leaders who are full of faith?
Developing leaders who will stand strong is essential for the Church to thrive in the future.
6 Deliberate Actions You Can Take To Strengthen the Future of the Church
The strength of the Church starts with how you lead your church, how each of us together leads the church we are responsible for.
1) Avoid a preoccupation with getting it all right.
It’s good to anticipate the future but not to fear it. The unknown is daunting, but today is when change can be made.
Avoid preoccupation with getting everything right; none of us can. Instead, focus on progress, concentrate on moving forward.
If you make a mistake, adjust and keep going.
That’s not an excuse for sloppy leadership; it’s an honest statement that’s been true long before a stubborn pandemic or division in our country. The current pressures we face simply make this reality more evident.
Ask yourself, what are the current trends, what are the current needs and take action.
If you need to adjust, adjust.
The measurement is clear, is Jesus being lifted up, and are lives being changed?
2) Lean into a collaborative spirit with other churches.
The future of the Church will be stronger if we are in it together.
We don’t need a massive organizational effort to unite churches worldwide, but simply that we help each other.
I see this happening more and more – it’s very encouraging to see!
Big picture we can:
- Focus on our similarities rather than our differences
- Pray for each other
- Learn from each other
Along with practical things like:
- Sharing resources
- Roundtables to cultivate ideas, encourage and strengthen leadership
- Financial investments from one church to another
- Some churches developing leaders, so other churches benefit
- If a church calls you with a question, do your best to help if at all possible
Good things are happening here; let’s keep this going!
3) Never surrender your convictions to cultural pressures.
We live and lead in a time when nearly anything we say may offend someone, so it’s easy to focus on all we can’t say. But, instead, focus on what you must say.
The number of things we must say is surprisingly short but incredibly powerful.
What are your deepest convictions? Live them out.
If you stifle your deepest convictions, you can’t lead, not with spiritual power and eternal impact.
Never surrender your biblical convictions to cultural pressures. Instead, lead with love and clear resolve.
4) Place integrity of character above programming excellence.
The church’s strength is not in the quality of its programs; it’s in the character of its leaders.
Again, this is not an excuse for lackluster leadership or shoddy ministry; it’s a call to something higher that lasts longer – character.
If the leader falls, the most brilliant ministry programming quickly fades.
Character may be the quiet strength for the future of the Church.
5) Inspire your team to be all in.
Settle for nothing less than a team who is all in, the future of the Church and its mission will not be won with casual effort.
Inspire your staff and key leaders to be fully engaged or give them the freedom to choose a team where they can be.
Don’t allow that to be a threat; it’s not. On the contrary, it’s an invitation to be honest and an opportunity to live on purpose and with passion.
It’s actually a great gift for people you care about to be able to live with passion and on purpose.
It’s really on us who lead the leaders; that’s why I’ve used the word inspire. So inspire your team to lead at their best!
6) Raise the banner of scripture and the gospel to your highest priority.
The Word of God and the message of Jesus may be the obvious strength of the Church in the future, but it is so easy to get sidetracked by things that are not important.
Stay focused today.
Now more than ever, and certainly in the future, the truth in scripture is the moral compass that is so desperately needed.
Jesus called us to make disciples; let’s stay focused; that is our future.