Pastors and Laypeople alike: Here is my Dream for the future of the Local Church.

We as the local church need more diversity and less homogeneity.

The population in the local church needs to be representative of the demographic of the surrounding community. We need to welcome and embrace more ethnic, racial, economic, and sexual diversity. We need to actively break down our biases and seek out those different than us. Focus groups, intentional ministries, and book studies are all ways we can start to create a more diverse environment in our local churches.

We as the local church need more confession, and less masquerading

One of the biggest problems in the church isn’t the weaknesses of God’s people, its feigning and faking of strengths. In a world where we hide behind our perfect social media profiles, we crave more humanness and imperfection. Authenticity starts with the pastor, and is spread by courageous laypeople willing to be honest and real. Take a risk and share your brokenness with others, and watch what God can do.

We as the local church need to be less American, and more Christian.

Christianity existed for around 1700 years before “America” as we know it was beginning to develop, but over the last two centuries the church’s love for its nation has shifted into idolatry. Your church is not a mouthpiece for your political party, nor is it the proper place to sing ‘America the beautiful’. We pledge allegiance first and foremost to a Kingdom that is not of this world.

We as the local church need to value discipleship more than growth in numbers.

Throughout our churches there are children, teenagers, adults, men and women alike, who are going unnoticed and unnurtured. As our numbers grow, our discipleship wanes. How cool would it be if church leaders made a decision to split their churches when numbers get to a certain threshold? This will not only provide a healthier balance in discipleship, but also give churches a chance to make “plants” in other neighborhoods.

We as the local church need to be less robotic, and become more intentional.

It’s time to stop going through the motions with both our worship and our ministries. We plan everything down to the last detail, trying to make sure everything goes off without a hitch, and in turn end up putting a harness on the Holy Spirit. Leave room for the Spirit to work. Take risks. Try new things in worship.

We as the local church need to preach less, and listen more.

Jesus was an amazing preacher; the Sermon on the Mount, parable after parable in Jerusalem, rebuking the Pharisees. But Jesus was also an amazing listener. Jesus heard the woman at the well, he empathized with the woman caught in adultery, he listened and engaged with his disciples, he heard and showed mercy to the thief being crucified next to him. We need to remember that we are not God, but we do have the power to point people to Him.

We as the local church need more humility, and less defensive attitudes.

I am tiring of the constant debates between Christians and the rest of the world. I am even more tired of the constant debates between Christians and other Christians. We have missed the point. Only through a posture of humility and submission can we approach the throne. What does the church gain from trampling over others to make sure they are “right”?

We as the local church need to leave consumerism, and run towards asceticism.

We are all “born consumers,” for we must consume to live: we must eat and drink, clothe ourselves, and find shelter. Unfortunately, it seems most of us now live, to CONSUME. Our wants have surpassed the needs of others. Comfort in this life has become our idol, and we don’t know how to tell ourselves “no”. We are good at justifying our levels of consumption. The spiritual act of the ‘fast’ must return! Start by fasting from your cell phone, fasting from your TV, fasting from a meal, or fasting from alcohol. If we want to take up our cross and follow Jesus, we must first learn to deny ourselves.

We as the local church need to acknowledge our mistakes and take responsibility for the damage we have done in the lives of so many who have been wronged by the church.

The people who make up the Church are far from perfect, and it’s time we own it. We have a bloody, greedy, nationalistic, racist, and perverted history. Many people have been extremely hurt by the place and people they were told they could trust. These wounds can still heal if we are intentional about it. Let’s start by saying “I’m sorry” to any who need to hear it.

We as the local church need a more open door policy within the community.

I’m tired of the lights being off in our churches apart from Sundays and Wednesdays. The church should be a safe haven for any and all who call that local community home. My dream is that the local church is a holy space not just for its worshipping congregation, but for all who wander through. Community cooking classes in church kitchens, weekly sports leagues on church grounds, after school tutoring in Sunday school classrooms, consignment sales in gym, playground access outside. Options to pursue are endless.

We as the local church need a better way to financially support ourselves; how about partnering with businesses who can rent out our space which will both bring people to our campus as well as help keep the bills paid.

Churches need money to keep their doors open and their ministries alive. That being said, too often do churches and church leadership spend valuable time on how to fundraise or come up with necessary financial support. The “finance” conversation takes away from discipleship opportunities and can even cause people in the church to put their guard up. This is often an impossible task with smaller congregations, or in lower income communities. I think the answer for the local church in the approaching future is to rent out their space to local businesses and events as a stable supportive income. I know that God will provide, but local churches can help themselves and use the resources already in the community.

We as the local church need more small group prayer and personal check-ins and accountability during Sunday morning service. Everyone who walks in the door on any given Sunday should feel heard and cared for. When did Sunday morning service become the most disconnected day of the week for church members?

It is my prayer that Sunday morning worship become less of a show that involves a few, and more of an experience that everyone takes a part of. It is far too common to attend a church service without ever making a personal connection with anyone. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, get in the car and drive home. We need to restructure our Sunday morning worship to include more personal interaction. “Turn and greet those around you” is not enough.

We as the local church need pastors who are less theologically precise, and are more pastoral.

Too many of our pastors hold their theological, biblical, and hermeneutical expertise on a higher pedestal than their other pastoral duties. Pastors need to focus more on loving and restoring their local communities, counseling and/or grieving with those in need, building healthy and vibrant discipleship within in their church body, and other in-house operations. I do want my pastors to be well versed in Scripture and have a strong theological background, but whether or not they know Greek and Hebrew should not be near the top of our lists.

We as the local church need less hierarchy in its politics, and more unity.

Our churches seem to look more and more like our governments, and I don’t know if that is for the best. We are all aware of what happens when too much power is allotted to someone, even if that person has all the right intentions. The gospel is a playing field leveler, and the local church should operate within this paradigm. How we do this, however, is something I would love to collaborate and brainstorm more.

We as the local church need more scripture memorization and passion for the Word, and less bible verse tattoos.

The argument over inerrancy of scripture has caused the church as a whole to lose their reverence and love for the living Word of God. There is a negative stigma with the Bible that needs to be addressed head on. Secular wisdom literature is flying off the shelves, but if you mention Scripture, you can almost visibly see walls go up with the people you are with. Things get uncomfortable. We need a revival of what the whole of scripture tells us; the story of a God and his creation living together along the journey of reconciliation and love.

We as the local church need more unity with surrounding churches, and less competition.

I understand the need for denominations. Well, maybe not completely, but I’m not calling to abolish them. The question we need to ask ourselves is when did the “Church” become the “churches”?  We need to realize that we all have the same mission (we do, don’t we?), and start collaborating and working together to make differences in our local communities. In the words of Denzel Washington, “If we don’t come together, right here on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed.”

We as the local church should focus less on mission statements, and more on living out our mission.

The mission of the church will be made known by the lives of its participants. Don’t worry about crafting the perfect church bulletin or road sign. What we value will be made known by where we spend our time and money, what the gospel means to us will be made known through our humility and ability to forgive, and what we stand for will be made known through our ministry of reconciliation and love within our communities.

We as the local church need to remove the idol of self-preservation: stop asking “How can we survive this recession?” and start asking “What is God calling us to today?”

What is God calling you to today? I hope you take the time to listen.

 

 

***** If you took the time to read this entire post, please know all of my words come humbly from someone who loves the local church, and will spend the rest of my life trying to be a faithful part of whatever church I call home. In a world so divided and corrupted, I put my hope and trust in the Holy Spirit and the vessel that is the people of the local church. *****

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