Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What mentality shifts must occur for the local church to thrive in the future?

"I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some."
-1 Corinthians 9:22

We all have a mentality, and many times it is unspoken. We view and understand the world through the lenses of our experiences, some good and some bad. Here are a few mentality shifts that faithful local churches must make in order to thrive in the future where the baby busters (those born from 1965-1983) and mosaics (those born from 1984 to 2002) make up the majority of the population.

1. “If you Build it, they will come!”

The movie Field of Dreams is a great flick, but its philosophy does not work in the local church. This has been a predominate mentality over the last fifty years but has not shown the same fruit in the last ten years. Just because you have a big building, doesn’t mean people will fill it. The church is not a brick and mortar building, it is people. Jesus did not come to develop real-estate, he came to save and transform lives!

2. “Ours is a family church!”

This sounds positive and to some degree it is. However surely the church Jesus has built and continues to build should be and must be more than that! Furthermore, when interpreted from within our predominately Western experience or (and assumptions about) the middle-class nuclear family, it can seriously limit – perhaps even damage- our understanding of the mission of the church.

3. “The Church is the guardian of society’s morals!”

This seems hard to disagree with, but it really does come form the assumption that we’re the central religious institution of society, that we have the inherent right to speak with authority into the moral situation. In a post-Christian, post-church, secular culture, the church no longer has that kind of status, legitimacy, and permission in the eyes of our culture. In other words shouting louder at goats because they are acting like goats will not help our witness! This kind of mentality can tend to make Pharisees of us all. Rather than trying to resolve this, we must return to the image of witness and not presume we have the cultural right to correct other people’s morals. We point to Jesus though faithful witness, not prescribed behaviors.

4. Understanding the difference between biblical principle and practice.

This most often takes the form in speech of “We haven’t done it that way before…” Like a ship, which stays in the sea, barnacles can cling to the bottom of the vessel. Some traditions in local churches are extra, but not necessary to smooth sailing. We must be able to see that buildings, Sunday’s service times, programs, order of service, musical style, etc… will change, but the gospel and church remains! When we ask people to adapt to the church culture we are most comfortable with, we are not following the example of Christ and reaching people where they are. Jesus left the comfort of heaven to become a man, live a perfect life and die as a perfect sacrifice in our place. We must never sacrifice our message, but our methods may need to be reconsidered.

5. Moving from Heavy Ministry to Fluid Ministry

From the 1950’s though the 1970’s the cars built were very heavy and not as safe as cars built today. Back in that time, books were written on heavier weight paper, furniture was built heavier, etc…. Today our cars are lighter and designed to take the force of a wreck, and many of us don’t even use a book to read with, but a lightweight phone or tablet for reading books and paper. We are more mobile than ever in our history. Trying to apply how we did ministry during a very “heavy, rigid” culture will not work in a lightweight, mobile fluid culture. We need to think not in terms of “three to thrive” (Sunday Morning, Evening and Wednesday Night), but in terms of building community. With longer drives to and from work, the schools becoming the cultural centers, and more options competing with church time, our churches must learn to be fluid in meeting the lost where they are. This is one reason why cold visits, door-to-door evangelism has struggled with our current culture.


  1. "Jesus did not come to develop real-estate, he came to save and transform lives!"
    "We point to Jesus though faithful witness, not prescribed behaviors."
    "When we ask people to adapt to the church culture we are most comfortable with, we are not following the example of Christ and reaching people where they are."

    Great post Travis! There's a lot of food for thought here. We certainly live in a time of fast cultural changes and while this may be uncomfortable for the church, we need to adapt our methods while keeping our message the same. Fight on brother!

    -José from SBTS

  2. Thanks Jose for your support. I pray all is going well down south!