Let me first give you the setting:
Purpose: to eat Spicy Buffalo Wings
The Question that Unleashed the Conversation: “How does someone in the local church find true community…is small groups ‘really’ the answer”?
So, the battle began. “Where is the church going”? "What is the state of the local church"? "Are clergy, lay people, and the like aware of its situation"? "Are we adapting to the changes, welcoming its coming, or are we going to continue doing things the way we have always done them" ('always' = last 20+ years)?
Immediately, someone spoke up and said that the local church ‘will’ evolve into smaller group of communities. These small communities will encompass one large community, some will call them cells, house groups, and the like, but will all look and function in the same manner. After his statement, someone rebutted in and said that the church will become more missional and will be intentional about building relationships, and the message of Christ will come through story and testimony. As a result, churches will remain small and look more grassroots, and less ‘established’. However, another chimed in and instantly won the Sunday School Answer Award, when he suggested that the local church will not sway or look a certain way, but instead, the church will have many different faces, or as he put it, “similar to a good hearty bowl of beef stew”. There will be small groups/communities; missional churches, Mega-Churches, small churches, even internet churches, but all will be a part of the overall church. Still, as the discussion deepened, and became heated, I wondered, “where is the church ‘really’ headed”? Five, Ten, Twenty, or Thirty years from now, what will the local church look like, and how will this shape the Church?
George Barna, in his new book “Revolution” states, “That the Church in North America are less interested in attending church than in being the church. We found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church – with a small ‘c’ – and the universal Church – with a capital ‘C’. Revolutionaries (as he labels them) tend to be more focused on being the Church, capital C, whether they participate in a congregational church or not.” A common misconception about revolutionaries is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church. We found that while some people leave the local church and fall away from God altogether, there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church. Barna estimates that the local church is presently the primary form of faith experience and expression for about two-thirds of the nation’s adults. He projects that by 2025 the local church will lose roughly half of its current “market share” and that alternative forms of faith experience and expression will pick up the slack. Importantly, Barna’s studies do not suggest that most people will drop out of a local church to simply ignore spirituality or be freed up from the demands of church life. Although there will be millions of people who abandon the entire faith community for the usual reasons, a growing percentage of church dropouts will be those who leave a local church in order to intentionally increase their focus on faith and to relate to God through different means.”
- How does this affect the “Professional” Christian? Will the bi-vocational pastor become the norm?
- Who holds one accountable?
- Where does one get their theology (Books, Internet, Oprah, Bono, Jack Van Impe, the friend next door?)?
- Will corporate worship look different…will it even be valid?
- Where does one find community?
- What does this mean in training future pastors, lay leaders, and the like?
*Can you think of any other implications…what are your thoughts or insights?
(Note: info. gathered from www.barna.org and friends at Applebee’s)