What’s Emerging in the Future of the Church?
“Future of the Church”
I recently attended a film screening for the Future of the Church documentary, which included a Q&A session with Director & Executive Producer, Steven Siwek Jr. hosted by Marc Krejci, the Pastor of Innovation at Venture Christian Church.
Although my focus for the evening was to film the event with the WE Mass Media team, I was personally very intrigued by the notion of the “Future of the Church” that Steven Siwek was presenting.
I was thrilled for the opportunity to glean some wisdom and have some of my own questions answered by Steven’s journey around the country as he interviewed 80 pastors and church leaders seeking to find the perfect formula for the future of the Church.
Here’s an excerpt from his story on the website futurechurch.com:
The original intent [of the documentary] was to give the Church strategies and/or solutions that went above and beyond the four basic answers/tenants Christians know: JESUS, Bible, Prayer, Church Attendance. I truly believed there had to be something more. So at first, my questions steered clear from theological debates, and instead tried to be as strategic and practical as possible. As our journey unfolded over the next few years Jerrod and I would end up traveling around the country and interview 80 pastors/Church leaders seeking to find the perfect formula for the future of the Church.
In the end of Steven’s long, twisting, and turning journey, his conclusion was very simple –– Jesus.
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Bridging the Gaping Gap
But Steven’s conclusion was just too simplistic and obvious to me - surely there has got to be more. Not more to Christ - because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever - but there must be more to Christ in us and us in Christ.
There has to be a wider foundation to lay - groundwork that’s currently missing - that could bridge the gaping gap which I have been suspended between for the past two years through my own life, faith, and nonprofit journeys.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Jesus is the Answer. But I also believe that, as His vessels, we have a cooperative role to play in advancing the Gospel, as one body with many functions.
I suspect many others share my sentiment - particularly, my fellow Millennials.
The only question is… How do we emerge from here?
After the event, I found myself adamantly reiterating the same questions in my interview with Steven Siwek and then afterward, in conversation with Marc Krejci. There has to be something different emerging. I’ve been observing it and I’ve been feeling it. But what is it? What’s emerging?
Mid-conversation with Marc, he made some comments surrounding the ideas of “design systems thinking”, referencing Stanford’s d.school Institute of Design. Finally, someone was speaking my language.
I recently completed a course on Design Thinking at Stanford, but this was the first time I was considering the concepts on a practical level, to be applied to “the future of the church.” (In short, Design Thinking is a unified framework for innovation.)
Marc provided me with an example to explain himself. His example involved a school of fish cooperating together in nature. Somehow, fish are able to swim in amazing formations from point A to point B with what appears to be no hierarchical leadership. Who’s leading who?
The idea Marc posited is that perhaps fish have a set of shared behavioral patterns - swim close together, avoid predators, etc. - which collectively guides them in what should be an impossible unison.
Later that evening, my brother, Brandon Too, pointed me to the world of biomimicry, which is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.
Ah-hah! So innovation is one of the keys to unlocking the future of the church. And that makes total sense - you can’t do the same thing over and over and expect different results (as many pastors enjoy preaching from the pulpit). In order to see things that have never been seen before, we have to do things that have never been done before.
The New Christians
The following day, I found myself sitting in traffic still riddled with countless questions. Yet I was determined to find answers so I safely pulled out my phone and quickly googled, “Design Thinking in Christianity.” And what I immediately found, then purchased, and began listening to, is a book by Tony Jones, titled The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.
I’m a quarter of the way through the book, still listening intently for the treasured insights, but from the get go, I saw the interweavings of God -
In the first chapter, the author provides a telling story as an analogy for the emerging church: When a forest inspector goes into a forest to examine its health and its future, he does not turn upward to the mighty trees towering above. Rather, he crouches down on the forest floor to find out what is emerging.
Ah-hah! So the future of the church might not be here just yet, but it is surely emerging - and someday it will take the place of all the mighty trees of today.
Finally, things are starting to make sense to me. And I am possibly discovering an identity and a framework from which I can continue to build upon.
It appears that I may be a “New Christian” on the “Emergent Frontier”.
2017 - The Year of Emergence
Unexpectedly yet not accidentally, God revealed his missional theme for my life in 2017 at an event called “Future of the Church.”
2017 will be the year of Emergence…
What that means, how it relates to fish, innovation, forest floors, the emergent frontier, and the future of the church, is still a puzzle to me, but seemingly it’s a puzzle I’ll be piecing together in 2017.
Continuation Blog Posts
The following is a growing list of my blog posts in my journey to piece together the future of the church:
- The Lost Practice of Cooperation?
- T-NET: Training and Coaching Pastors to Finish the Great Commission…Worldwide
- StartChurch.com as a Christian Social Entrepreneur’s Strategy for Tax & Legal
- Ephesians 2:10: God’s Workmanship and Our Works
- The Missional Church: In the City for the City
- Holy Ambition: Turning God-Shaped Dreams Into Reality
- Unity begins with U-N-I
|1||Tony Jones||“The New Christians”; an American theologian, author, blogger, and speaker who is a leading figure in the emerging church movement and postmodern Christianity; Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary (2011)|
|2||Reggie McNeal||The Missional Leadership Specialist for the Leadership Network|
|4||Shane Claiborne||A Christian activist and author who is a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement and one of the founding members of the intentional community, the Simple Way, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.|
|5||Mark Driscoll||An American evangelical Christian pastor, author, and the former pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle, Washington; pastoring The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.|
|8||Dr. Ernie Prabhakar|
|1||Emergent Village||A growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ|
|1||The New Christians||Tony Jones||In-progress|
|2||A Biblical Theology of Missions||George W. Peters|
|3||The Present Future (1/3)||Reggie McNeal|
|4||Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church (2/3)||Reggie McNeal|
|5||Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church (3/3)||Reggie McNeal|
|6||Kingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church–and What We Should Do Instead||Reggie McNeal|
Related Buzz Words
|1||Emerging church||Proponents believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” calling the movement a “conversation” to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “postmodern” society. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community. Varieties: Relevants, Reconstructionists, Revisionists, and house church.|
|2||Postmodern philosophy||A philosophical direction which is critical of certain foundational assumptions of Western philosophy and especially of the 18th-century Enlightenment. It emphasizes the importance of power relationships, personalization and discourse in the “construction” of truth and world views. Postmodernists deny that an objective reality exists, and deny that there are objective moral values.|
|3||Missional||Missional living is the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.|
|4||House church||A group of Christians who regularly gather for worship in private homes. The group may be part of a larger Christian body, such as a parish, but some have been independent groups that see the house church as the primary form of Christian community; House church organizations claim that this approach is preferable to public meetings in dedicated buildings because it is a more effective way of building community and personal relationships, and it helps the group to engage in outreach more naturally; Christians who meet together in homes have often done so because of a desire to return to early Church style meetings as found in the New Testament. The New Testament shows that the Early Christian church exhibited a richness of fellowship and interactive practice that is typically not the case in conventional denominations. They believe that Christians walked closely with each other and shared their lives in Christ together.|
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