Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Conversation on "The State of the 'C'hurch"

Let me first give you the setting:

Place: Applebee’s
Time: 10pm
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.”

  1. How does this affect the “Professional” Christian? Will the bi-vocational pastor become the norm?
  2. Who holds one accountable?
  3. Where does one get their theology (Books, Internet, Oprah, Bono, Jack Van Impe, the friend next door?)?
  4. Will corporate worship look different…will it even be valid?
  5. Where does one find community?
  6. 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 and friends at Applebee’s)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"The Progression of 'Youth Ministry'"...Part 3

“Youth Ministry According to John Wesley: a message for today's church"

As part 1 and 2 convey, youth ministry can be difficult to describe, define, and predict. However, in looking at the history of its impact on culture and society, we now turn to one of the greatest Practical Theologians who connected society and religion through which we will understand how the church is to adapt to today’s progression of ministry to youth.

Wesley’s teachings and foundational truths move churches beyond traditional ideas of developing programs and planning activities to addressing topics such as authentic discipleship, authentic worship, teen and adult connections, community building, faith development, and equipping youth to live as Christian disciples in their everyday lives. Wesley does not stop there, but suggests that a complete ministry to youth integrates them now (while they are still young) into the body, or what some call ‘adult church’.
Below are key elements to a ‘Wesleyan’ Youth Ministry.

A Wesleyan influenced Youth Ministry is one that:

  1. Reverberates Discipleship
    -It is a “lifelong” process.
    -Challenges the pastor means of equipping, ongoing spiritual growth, and support for laypersons who engage in discipleship ministries with “all” ages.
    -In addition to hearing the Bible preached, seekers and Christians come together to study the Scripture, and support one another in living out the insights they discover in God’s Word.
  2. Is a ‘church as first family’ model that believes youth are essential to the body of Christ and intentionally integrates students into the overall life of the church.
  3. Teaches them spiritual disciplines in order that they may discover individually how to find God (this is in line with Wesleyan theology that says it is the grace of God, which makes possible our salvation)
  4. Is Missional--Creates a method of witnessing to adolescents…regularly exposing them to other Christians who are radically living out their faith and allowing them to participate in the life of the community.

If one looks at the progression of youth ministry, they may see many ministries that are moving away from old gimmick models, the latest trends, and quick fixes in getting students to their youth groups, because they realize long-term, these ways does not work. Moreover, with a culture of students that literally has everything at the edge of their finger tips (MTV, Internet, etc.); along with the busyness of life (Athletics, Extracurricular activities, church events, and the like); in addition to the socio and domestic issues (prejudices, self-esteem, violence, divorce, etc.)…churches, pastors, and the like, have to realize that they are also very spiritual, longing for depth and authentic community. One example is looking at the influences and resources that are now ‘relevant’.

Willow Creek, Saddleback, Youth Specialties, Group, etc. are all implementing strategies and curriculum emphasizing small groups, discipleship, and student led ministry guides, and the like. Thus, reiterating and supporting John Wesley’s foundational and practical truths in training, teaching, and reaching students to belong to a community that shapes one to become more like Christ, and emphasizes in bringing others along.

A Wesleyan youth ministry is a holistic ministry that takes our students on the holistic spiritual journey that does not just last them a couple of years, but an entire lifetime!

1. How does Wesley’s teachings influence your view on ‘how to do’ youth ministry? What is that view?
2. Do you think that in today’s progressive society, Wesley is the ‘right’ model (or good model) in basing one’s youth ministry? If not, what is?
3. How does one integrate students into the overall body of the church? Do you think this is this even important?
4. Is youth ministry becoming more compartmentalized or more holistic?
5. Scenario: If Wesley was presenting a lecture on the state of youth ministry in the church today, and already being aware of his teachings on the subject, what questions or concerns would you address?

I welcome your engaging thoughts, insights, and experiences.

(note: some info. taken from Wesley’s Works, Wesley’s Sermons, and Creating an Authentic Youth Ministry-Fashbaugh II)