July 17, 2018
There is a lot of doom and gloom concerning that state of the church. From young people leaving to devoted members attending less often, the popular prognosis for the future of the church in North America is not good.
As true as the statistics may be, I think the church should be preparing itself for the next ministry revolution. One that has been percolating for some time now. Some churches are doing this well already, while others are just playing on the fringes of this new ministry horizon.
Sadly, most churches are unaware that it even exists, because they are stuck in a ministry model that, frankly, is already outdated by a century. For what it's worth, I believe that the churches who are able to excel in this new ministry horizon are the ones who will survive and thrive, while those who don't will die off or have very limited effectiveness for the Kingdom.
When it comes to ministry, the basic intent of our outreach is to attract people to the church. Regardless of how much we want to pretend we are missional or purpose-driven, while preaching about "going out" into our communities, the end game is all about getting them into our hallowed halls.
For centuries, the focus of the church has been on the gathering of a community together for worship and the Word. In other words its been all about physical attendance.The focus of getting people to church has served us well since its inception, but because of the dramatic changes happening all around us there is now a second opportunity we need to invest in.
As already stated, the first mode of attendance is physical, but now there is a second mode, which is virtual.
With the advent of technology there is now a viable, second horizon or dimension for ministry. Now, I am not talking about just recording sermons in audio or video format and putting them on your website. I'm not even talking about giving people the opportunity to give online.
I'm talking about creating a full-fledged online community that gives people as close an experience to actually being there physically. For the sake of clarity, I don't believe the physical church will ever disappear, but I do think that churches need to embrace this second dimension, which is the virtual realm.
As we grow more technologically dependant, the virtual world is becoming the default landing space for many. From educational and medical institutions, to travel and commerce, the online world is where our culture finds engagement. Here are the reasons why churches need to take this seriously.
1. Even regular attenders are showing up less.
This is probably the most startling fact that has been recently confirmed. For a variety of reasons, church attendance is no longer the first priority, even for those who are committed to the church.
2. The Church continues to lose its influence.
This trend has been on a steady downhill trajectory for some time now. The reasons are too many to list here, but for many, the church is no longer the place that shapes the course of our lives. For many, popular culture has more influence than the church.
3. Individualized spirituality.
More and more, the trend is to see the church as an institution. Couple that with a growing attitude that the church is not a necessity to spiritual growth and the results are obvious. Ironically, the internet is the first place people go when they have questions regarding spirituality.
4. Affluence and more options.
If your church is engaging the middle-class and upper-class in any way, you've probably noticed that they have more options available. This translates to more travel, more activities for the kids, and even the opportunity to indulge themselves in ways that weren't available to previous generations. Consequently, it translates to lower attendance.
5. No guilt or engagement.
There was a time when people would feel a sense of guilt for not showing up, but that is no longer the case. Couple this with the trend of lessened involvement and it becomes another one-two punch to the attendance equation.
6. The trend of attending multiple churches.
I've noticed in the last number of years the trend for some to attend different churches as a regular habit. They do not want to commit to one church and enjoy the variety that exists among worship styles and preaching.
7. More online options.
This is the most telling of all. On any given day you can connect to every big name church and preacher. I would even venture to say that even regular and faithful attenders, are likely supplementing what they get at church with online content.
I'm aware that this new horizon does present theological issues, especially as it relates to the nature of the church, but at the same time we cannot be blind to the reality around us.
Secondly, its a ministry opportunity we simply cannot ignore. In my next blog I'm going to flesh out what a dynamic virtual church consists of, and how it should relate to the church overall.
July 20, 2018
Well said Jon – a lot being written about this right now from guys like Carey Nieuwhof to name one.
looking forward to hearing what you have to say – <
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