Most of the time, expert musings about what the worldwide church will look like involve demographic surveys, technological advancements, and philosophical reflections. Bestselling authors and popular conferences focus on future trends.
It’s important for churches to be part of this discussion so they can freshly apply the gospel to the moment and help their people think through inevitable ethical challenges.
Yet, when future-casting, leaders can often be ironically shortsighted. Our strategizing thinks in terms of 15, 20, and 30 years down the road. We worry about the church we will leave our children and grandchildren. We talk about investing in the next generation.
But is our vision sufficiently large? What if we dreamt about the next 10,000 years? What if we prepared our people for living as citizens of God’s future kingdom?
Sometimes, in our quest to create cutting-edge churches, we sacrifice our long-term futures for short-term benefits. I’ve often felt this way as I’ve walked into vibrant, well-known churches or as I attend popular evangelical conferences. It seems that we are often creating a church for the young, hip, and sexy. It’s as if we want our message to the world to be something like, “See, church is the place where the cool people gather on Sunday.”
But the kingdom of God takes the opposite approach.
Jesus said it is the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized who have a prominent place in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3, 20:16). Paul reminded his churches of the shocking ordinariness of God’s people (1 Cor. 1:26). James scolded those in the church of Jerusalem for their tendency to favor the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor (James 2:1-13).
Do our congregations look like outposts of this radical kingdom? Do people enter our congregations and wonder to themselves, How did these disparate people get here? What possible thread unites people so vastly separated by age, race, political affiliation, and class? Why is it that old and young, black and white, disabled and able-bodied, rich and poor, prominent and anonymous gather together every Sunday?
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