Outreach magazine recently celebrated its 10th year in publication, and as part of that Ed Stetzer wrote about five things we need to face as a church in the next ten years:
1. A clear understanding of the gospel.
Too many have assumed it, but we need to teach it. The gospel is not you do, it’s Jesus did. People don’t need to be taught to turn over a new leaf– they need to receive and live out a new life. That new life is from Jesus’ death on the cross, for our sin and in our place. Don’t build a message that would still be true if Jesus had not died on the cross.
2. A stronger focus on discipleship.
God shapes congregations through the shaping of individual members’ lives. But this doesn’t just happen by accident or as a by-product– God grows us as we are in a position to receive that growth. This can only happen through intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members. In our Transformational Discipleship project, the largest statistical study of its kind, we found that discipleship was both lacking and simple– we just needed to remind people to live out who God has made us in Christ.
3. A greater passion for mission.
We need to stand up against the clergification in the modern-day church– the tendency to look at those who are professional ministers and say that they are the ones who are called to the mission, while the people in the pews are merely consumers of religious goods and services. We need to see all of God’s people engaged in God’s mission, from their respective neighborhoods all the way to the nations. We stand at a key moment, and part of the answer is to engage more of God’s people in mission.
4. Evangelism in the age of the Nones.
We are now increasingly facing what I have called a post-seeker context. This does not mean that seekers no longer exist. The Spirit is always at work in the hearts of people. But churches that once focused their energies and efforts toward targeting seekers are finding it more difficult to appeal to a constituency with little to no religious memory. Churches will have to find new ways to lead their people to reach out to their neighbors– not just attractional evangelism, but incarnational evangelism as well– being, doing, and telling good news where we live and work.
5. New thinking in developing best practices.
God often uses tools for his ends– think of bus ministry in the 70s or radio ministry in the 50s. That’s still true today. As believers, we can and must be good stewards of our ministry and utilize tools wisely–like multisite churches, viral church planting, and finding new ways to serve those who are hurting and in need.
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