There’s a lot of upheaval going on in the church right now. And it’s not even close to being over.
There will be a great many local congregations and denominations that will not survive into the next generation or two. But that doesn't mean the church is dying. Or even in trouble. It’s just changing.
The church of the next generation will not look like it does today. Or like it has for generations.
I have no idea what the church of the future will look like. But I’m okay with not knowing. Because it’s not my church. It belongs to Jesus. And he knows what he’s doing.
The Way We’ve Done Church…
Most of the way we do church was set up during a time that went relatively unchanged for centuries.
People met in person. They developed relationships with people they were geographically close to. And churches reflected that.
But that’s not the only way people live and relate anymore. It’s not unusual for a teen, a parent or even grandma to have a closer online relationship with someone who lives thousands of miles away than they do with someone who lives in the house next door.
People buy things from a virtual store, instead of a brick-and-mortar business. This has many cities panicking, because they were designed to function in a brick-and-mortar world.
But people will adapt. They are adapting. And the cities that adapt with it will survive. The same goes for churches.
I was reminded of this yesterday. As I was driving home, I passed two mobile businesses in the lane next to me. One was a food truck, the other was a mobile bike repair business.
Where I live, land is so expensive and city regulations are so punitive that it’s very hard for a business to buy or rent a storefront.
So they’re adapting.
…Won’t Be The Way We Do Church
While some businesses will continue to go bankrupt stubbornly clinging to an old brick-and-mortar paradigm that’s dying out, innovators will keep experimenting with new ideas. Or very old ideas, reimagined.
Today’s business owners are more likely to buy a truck than they are to set up a restaurant or storefront. Instead of asking customers to go to them, they’ll set up shop at your event for lunch, dinner or a community event. Or they’ll come to your office to fix your bike or car.
The church is certainly as innovative and adaptable as a for-profit business. At least we should be.
So here’s what I see happening in the next generation or two.
Churches that cling to their old, extra-biblical models will continue to suffer, die and become irrelevant.
Churches that adapt their methods to advance Jesus’ mission will struggle, too. Change is like that. But more of them will survive and thrive than those who refuse to adapt, innovate and get ahead of the curve.
So How Will We Do Church?
So what will the church of the future look like? I have no idea.
But I’m pretty sure of one thing. There won’t be one new way, it will be a whole bunch of new ways.
And I also know that people will always need places to gather together to worship. Even as virtual church services grow, there will always be a hunger to be in the same physical space with fellow believers. Whether it’s a home, a coffee shop, a park or a mobile stage.
Technology will never change our essential human need to breathe the same air as we worship Jesus together.
But what those worship places will look like is anybody’s guess.
So no, I don’t know what the church of the future will look like.
But I’m excited about it.
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