I recently came across a quote that said, "There are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet." That statement keeps running over and over in my mind. I don't know what those ways are at this point. (Obviously, since no one has thought of them yet!) But, they are out there. Someone will think of them, and as new ways of doing church are discovered new people will be reached with the Gospel.
A few weeks ago I posted an article on this site that addressed the future of the local church. You can read that post here. In that article I suggested several changes we would likely to see in the future church, but there are many, many more changes that we will see in the future that have not even been considered yet.
Some find that this much change will be a scary thing. I find it fascinating. My biggest regret is that at my age I will not see much of it. At a recent pastor's conference I was leading I told the younger pastors that I envied them because they were going to see exciting changes occur in the church that those of us in my generation will probably not experience.
But, such changes will require innovative thinking that is not afraid to fail. There will be organic churches develop that will frighten denominational leaders and cause established churches to question their authenticity. These churches will reach people who would never darken the doorway of most traditional churches.
I expect many of these will be new church plants that do not have a history or tradition people want to preserve. They will be free to create their own systems and traditions, and these will be created to enable them to fulfill the vision they believe God has given them for ministry.
It will be much harder for established churches to create new ways of doing church because there is such an emphasis in these churches to preserve their past. Some in these churches see their role as that of a protector of everything that has gone on before. They will oppose any suggestion of doing anything that has not been done before and will attempt to remove anyone, pastor or lay person, who suggests such a thing. Such people forget that virtually everything their church does now was once a change from how things used to be done. Few churches operate today exactly as they did 150 years ago. (If nothing else, most of them have inside toilets today!)
Leadership will be required for a church to launch out into new ways of doing church. It will require visionary leaders who are not afraid of conflict or failure, and who can withstand the challenges that are sure to come from within Christian circles. Such leaders will have to be passionate about what they are trying to create and be highly skilled at casting vision so others can share in the ownership of that vision.
I'll close with a few questions. If you are in a traditional church today, how many churches in your community function almost exactly like your church? Does your community need that many churches that are almost carbon copies of one another? Are there new things you can do that will allow your church to reach those in your community that are not being reached by any church? Do you care enough about those people to make the necessary changes?