Rapid and dramatic changes are occurring in our world. More parents are rearing their children alone. More grandparents are rearing their grandchildren. Sons and daughters are living longer with their parents. Families are connecting via social media. People are marrying later and remaining married fewer years.
Drones are patrolling the skies and companies are promising to use them for quick deliveries. There are now more Uber cars than yellow cabs in New York City. People walk down the streets and hallways with their noses in their smart phones. Most of us are so dependent on our GPS that we can no longer find our way to a new location. People are spending more time at work, despite our time-saving devices. More people work on Sundays. Fewer people are still living in their hometown.
Generation gaps are getting wider and wider. Taboos, values and morals are in flux.
A Changing Church
There are the religious trends that began decades ago and seem to be picking up speed:
A few churches are getting larger while most are getting smaller.
Many people now see Sunday as “family day,” not “church day,” and fewer people feel guilty about not being in worship.
More and more Americans are seemingly interested in spirituality but not Christianity.
Those who grew up in a Christian home and a loving church, along with those who live in one of the remaining pockets of the country where the cultural expectation is still that people should go to Sunday worship, are the exception, not the rule. Most people do not live in communities where church is the norm, and increasing numbers of people have no history with the Christian faith or the church.
It’s a Different World
Someone asked, “Can your kind of church change your kind of world?” If you cannot answer with a strong affirmation, don’t write off your church; encourage a pioneering leader or two in your congregation to creatively and intentionally engage people who are beyond the walls.
No matter how effective a congregation is, no single church can be everything for everyone. Yet a congregation can use its strengths to begin a fresh expression of church. It doesn’t require the entire membership to do that. It just takes a few—a handful of imperfect people responding to a divine call.
We call these people “pioneers.” We are focused on giving them the tools to experiment with new forms of church.
A fresh expression of church will become the means by which many can best join God in his mission to the world. Do you know someone in your church or denomination who could be a pioneer of fresh expressions? Might that person be you?
Travis Collins is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, and Director of Mission Advancement for Fresh Expressions US. He holds a PhD in Christian Mission and is the author of From the Steeple to the Street and Fresh Expressions of Church.