I am often asked about the future of the church. People reference the declining numbers of attendees in the United States in the vast majority of churches since the 1960s. One essay I read even refuted the few growing mega churches saying, “there is a direct correlation from small community churches shrinking and a very few mega churches growing.” They aren’t making Christians. They are taking Christians. Even with the trend of some churches growing the numbers, it doesn’t look well for the future.
So then what is the future of the church? What’s next? Two things 1) The future of the universal church has never looked good. 2) There is no future of the church. There is only now.
The future of the universal church has never looked good. The temptations of the world for power and money against the message of peace and inclusion for all never looks successful. The church has a backwards message. Die to yourself, so you can truly live. Give to others, rather than keep all you have. Don’t banish the weak and the stranger or the poor and the orphans. Invite them in. Show them the same hospitality meant for kings. The church doesn’t have a viable business model. It isn’t economically sound. It especially isn’t culturally attractive. Who wants to eat with lepers and homeless? Only those in the church. Yet, even the members within the church debate.
That is the other side of why the future of the church has never looked good. The universal church has internal struggles. Oh, we fight within ourselves. The battles still rage over what a true sin is, how salvation works, who is saved, how we know someone is saved, who has the true message of Jesus and what that message actually is. That’s just the big stuff. It’s the little stuff that actually hurts. What kind of music will sing to God? Does God care as long as our hearts are in it? What color should the carpet be? Does God care as long as people walk on it? Or my favorite, how come there is a mess in the kitchen and why don’t people clean up after themselves? God cares about messes! With all the natural infighting, the future of the church has never looked good.
Yet, here is a truism. There is no future of the church. There is only now. How is this true? Well, of course there is a future of the church. The church is eternal and everlasting. Yet, you are the church. There is no future without you and you are here now. So what’s next for the church? What is church 3.1? You! Church 3.1 is connecting you with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Church 3.1 is finding ways to get you more deeply involved with our Creator God, Redeemer Christ, and Sustainer by the Holy Spirit.
Now to be sure, this is going to look like trying a few new things. We will work to create deeper relationships, grow in faith and wisdom, and serve, serve, serve. Here is why: The church even now is the only institution that does not exist for itself. We exist for others. We have to find other ways to get you outside the walls of the church. Church 3.1 is now. You are the church. This is our future. May our Triune God bless our work, worship, and winsome community.
Rev. Trey Hegar