If you quietly believe your church isn’t that different today than two years ago, consider that because the culture has dramatically changed, people see, perceive, and experience your church differently.
That reality is unavoidable.
The essential question is — Are people experiencing the difference in your church that you want them to experience?
In most cases, the difference is shaped by nuance, how you say what you say, how you treat people, and the values and convictions you stand for – not your programs.
The new church is people over methods. Yes, it’s always been about people, but we have leaned heavily into models and methods for decades, and while they will still serve you well, people must come first.
As little as twenty-five to thirty years ago, society looked at the local church, generally speaking, with favor. It was seen as good even for many that didn’t go themselves. Today, the church (again, in general) is often seen as something unnecessary, irrelevant, or maybe even questioned.
It’s my observation that people are considering things of a spiritual nature more and more because, intuitively, they’re at a loss for answers in a world that increasingly doesn’t make sense.
Turning the tide is not easy, and it’s a long road ahead, but it’s unquestionably doable! I have great faith in the Church because I have faith in a great God.
So, where do we start?
Start where people are and meet them with the gospel.
The great search today is for:
- Peace over anxiety
- Truth over opinions
- Meaning over superficial
- Joy over anger
- Freedom over addiction
The longer the absence of peace, truth, meaning, joy, and freedom continues, the greater the discontent.
- Many are deciding if they will pursue God.
- They are deciding if they will trust and value “church.”
- And among them, some will consider trying your church.
More than ever, people are searching for answers, and you have them. Your church carries the truth of the gospel, the grace of your community, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we continue to become better at what we are good at, the church will continue to be the hope of the world.
Current culture is more complex, it’s changing rapidly, and we must keep up.
The church is good at these things on the following list, but we must get better.
5 Essentials for Today’s Church to Thrive
1) A spirit of grace and kindness that permeates the culture
The great void in current culture is grace and kindness. Thankfully, we see it in action, but it’s not the overall tone in most communities.
The cultural tone today is divisiveness, judgment, exclusiveness, and discontent. The church has an incredible opportunity to be the bright light in dark and discouraging times, but we must rise to the challenge. It’s not “business as usual.”
We’re all grateful for those who are returning to church and moved by all the new people trying church, but our chief responsibility is to communicate how the person of Jesus offers what they are looking for.
Leadership and vision are essential, but it’s the grace of God and the kindness of His people that carries the strength of your church.
How would you assess your church in this area?
2) An embracing of biblical truth over popular opinion
One of the most common phrases I hear today is “I don’t know who or what to believe.”
If you spend just ten minutes a day on social media, you can experience the mind-blowing free-for-all of unlimited opinions. I’m not against social media, it has great purposes, and I participate, but it sometimes just wears me out. How about you?
Opinions are rampant, and the truth is hard to discern, but Scripture stands as infallible truth. If we first meet people with grace and kindness, they will listen.
It’s like a restaurant with good food or a mechanic that does great work or a doctor who helps you get better; people will get in line and wait! They are looking for solutions, not opinions.
What solutions to real problems does your church offer?
3) A place to belong rather than merely attend
Isolation is competing with belonging, and the church has an incredible opportunity to meet the real human need of community.
Fellowship may sound like an old-fashioned idea, but it’s a New Testament value. I’m not referring to a chicken dinner at the church; it’s about deep connection, spiritual unity, and serving others based on a shared communion with God.
- Belonging, in the context of the church, is based on a Holy Spirit guided pursuit of God. It allows us to be accepted as we are and to accept others as they are, with a passion for spiritual growth for all.
- Belonging is about shared participation in serving for the good of others. As you give, you receive.
- Belonging breaks the bonds of isolation and loneliness and creates deep and meaningful relationships.
When your everyday friendships come from this kind of belonging, they meet a most basic human need at a heart level.
How do new guests connect in deep and meaningful ways at your church?
4) Global matters, but local is home.
A global awareness and focused efforts in different parts of the world is undoubtedly an important biblical value for us to follow. It really matters.
There is also something powerful about faith in your own backyard, yet it is easily overlooked. The needs of people very near you are real, and so many of us can make a difference immediately.
Then there is something special about the place you call home that captures your heart and allows God to cultivate a burden within you to help make a difference. Your local church is one of the strongest ways to help see that happen.
What is your church’s plan to meet the needs of your community?
You can’t meet them all, but it starts with discovering God’s specific plan for where you should focus your efforts and resources.
When you are strong at home, you can be stronger globally.
5) Unified around purpose rather than divided by agenda
Unity in your church may be one of the strongest allies you have both spiritually and organizationally toward achieving your mission.
Division (already chosen sides) and divisiveness (forcing the choice of sides) are hurting the church and current culture.
The better we get at unity within our churches, the greater our integrity and voice to those outside the church.
Rarely, if ever, does a church struggle because its mission isn’t right; it’s because the church couldn’t agree and rally around that mission. Unity is essential.
It’s true that the mission must be worth following, but the real power is in unity. It’s about going there together.
On a scale of 1 – 10, how unified is your church to your mission and vision?
I hope this is helpful; let’s keep going!