What is Your Hope for the Church?

Christianity Today is celebrating a “rebranding,” which includes a new visual identity and the launch of a new ministry website, ChristianityToday.org. As a part of its celebration, it is asking people to respond to the question “What is my hope for the future of the Church”? Since I am a contributing editor to Leadership Journal, also published by Christianity Today Int’l, I was invited to write something in answer to the same question.  To be honest, when I went on the website and started to read people’s hopes for the future of the Church, I got scared. Call me Mr. Sensitive, but after being a pastor for 40 years all I’ve heard have been people’s preferences for what they want the Church to be like, and these preferences are often hidden behind their hopes, dreams, and “suggestions.” I believe that many of these “suggestions” are based upon flawed thinking. The Church has so many shapes and sizes that it must have different expressions in order to fit into the context and culture where it is planted. In other words, one size does not fit all, which has been the beauty of the Church down through the ages. Thus it may be that we do not feel a fit with a particular church, but that does not mean there is anything wrong with that church. Through our preferences, however, we may be in reality trying to jack-hammer a certain local expression of the church into the shape that we want or according to the pattern of what we have or have not experienced in our last church. The other flaw in our thinking is that we often fail to measure what we want for the Church by God’s ultimate concern for the Church– after all it is His, is it not?  Our preferences often lead us “astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3), and away from the simplicity of God’s mission for the Church. I have been a volunteer high school coach for many years. Every season, I take my players back to the basics of their sport or event. I do this not just for the sake of the newcomers, but also for the veterans who need to relearn some fundamental stuff they may have overlooked in their developing styles.  I think every generation has to go back to the basics of what God wants for His Church, and then implement that according the style which best fits their context. Thus we need to fervently seek what God wants as we study the Word and as we do so in prayer. Alas it is last component of prayer that is sadly lacking in the Church, and may be the very reason why we have so many divergent hopes and dreams. Therefore, a praying Church is the future Church for which I hope.

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5 Responses to What is Your Hope for the Church?

  1. Tracy says:

    Its funny, cause while I agree that local churches are not cookie cutter, I was just kind of meditating on the one size fits all nature of the Church the just the other day. I like that I can drive around and tune into the low end of the dial on the radio during some of my long drives and no matter who the pastor is, the message is fundamentally the same. Sometimes I change the station, but a lot of times I find some place to park the dial. The thing I keep thinking about lately is how it is pretty amazing that the guy on the radio in California comes up with fundamentally the same message out of the text as Charles Spurgeon did in a different time or culture, or as Teresa of Avila did, or any of the others. Thats what the Church should look like or else how can we ever trust the Shepherd’s not to be coming up with their own random schtick? We are fragile sheep out here and we put all our trust in what we are being taught, make life changing decisions even.

    Some messages get jack hammered into our minds, laid down in stone. It’s not that easy to just go somewhere else and forget about it…

    Some of us “want” it according to the pattern that we were taught was the pattern, thats all. Is it a “want” when you think you are doing the right thing and not just exercising a personal preference, even? I would be more likely to say “I learned that this was right, in all circumstances, not location dependent.”

    Take church discipline, for example. It should look the same in Peoria as it does in Jersey City, maybe a few local quirks, but there is a pattern. Something to rely on, word left behind about how to do something. A process that should work if it is engaged it.

    All that listening over many years gets into a persons head, heart, and mind. What is the point of doing it, if you go some place else and it no longer applies?

    sinking sand….

    Just a thought!

  2. Brian says:

    The church I hope for is the Christian I have longed to “re-become” since my second birth. When I came to Christ, I, like many others, had such an overwhelming realization of God’s grace that I couldn’t help but share it with others. In fact, the day after I was introduced to the Savior, I called my parents to say, “Guess what? I’m saved!” And I know they were thinking, “Saved from what?” I could hardly express the relief I felt since the weight of sin had been released from my aching heart, but I knew and was certain, for the first time in my life, that it was not I who needed to “get to heaven,” but God who would “take me there.”

    Unfortunately, like so many others, that zeal has been lost, and after years of church and para-church ministry, while I am fully and professionally equipped to reach the world with the gospel, I find it more and more difficult to open my mouth with the same passionate excitement I once had.

    My hope for the future church is to see it become so gloriously overwhelmed with the grace of God that it cannot remain quiet. My hope is that it will not take up social causes without also sharing the message which can solve all social ills (why do we expect unbelievers to act in a Christian manner?). My hope is that we will speak it in our jobs, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and in the marketplace … in a manner that is so Christlike and winsome that the hearer cannot help but be moved to a response, even if it means they say, “I do not want your God.” My hope for the church is that every program we run will be seasoned with a gospel message and every dollar we spend will have a gospel intent. I want to be lost among, follow and be infected by people who can not help but share God’s love in their everyday lives. I want revival…not in the world, but in the church…starting with me. Let that be my prayer.

  3. Cory says:

    David,

    Thanks for introducing your readers to our Hope for the Church campaign, and for also sharing your unique and challenging thoughts as well.

    We appreciate it.

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