Maybe this is nothing new to you, but things change. To make sure we're on the same page, I've been speaking this to my congregation's leadership. Before we can step forward, we must know what we're stepping into. Here are three changing assumptions that will change how we operate as the church.
Christian to Non-Christian Context
We are entering/living in a post-Christian society where the institutional church is no longer a dominant influence in culture. This doesn't mean the church is dead. It simply means that as a societal force, Christianity's sway is waning. Countless books, articles, and conferences center around this topic, so I won't belabor the point. The bottom line is that we have to accept the new reality. It doesn't help to have insider Christians complaining, "Why hell won't people just come back to church like they used to?!"
So what do we do? We start operating like we "live in the bush." A couple generations ago, missionaries were sent "to the bush" - exotic places like Papua New Guinea where isolated tribes had never been evangelized. A missionary had to immerse himself or herself into the culture to understand the people's language, customs, beliefs, and values. Let's assume our neighbors have no biblical foundation. Let's assume they practice a variety of religions, but are unfamiliar with the Christian worldview. Let's evaluate everything we do as if we live in a foreign context. I guarantee it will change what we do.
Clergy-Centered to Every Christian
A clergy-centered model of ministry meant that pastors "do the ministry." An "every Christian" model assumes that every member plays a role. Somehow we've gotten to a place where "ministry" only happens on Sundays and the pastor is the only one who does it. So Christians participate in ministry only by coming to "the Jesus show" (I heard this term recently).
The "every Christian" model is nothing new (I Peter 2:9). It doesn't mean that every Christian has the same role, but that every Christian plays a role (I Cor. 12). It doesn't diminish corporate worship, but sees that one hour in the context of the other 167 hours in the week. And its doesn't diminish the role of the pastor. Pastors serve the people so the people can serve the world.
So what do we do? We raise the bar. Christian membership comes with faithful responsibility. Regardless of gifting, every Christian is called to live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
If 60% of my city is disconnected or unconnected from Jesus (and that might be low), then 1.2 million people need to be reached in my metro area. This requires a movement, not one man.
Place to People
Christendom built institutions, buildings, and programs. Post-Christendom necessitates the building of relationships. In a diverse, global, and technological context, relational capital is at a premium.
In another era, it was the Field of Dreams mantra, “Build a place and people will fill it.” Today the places aren't being filled. So the new mantra is, "Build a people and they will fill a place.” Our neighbors have a million places to go. But they know fewer people who care.
So what do we do? Get off my computer and go find some people . . .