Future Church: Part 3

By: Justin Anderson

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Hope you all had a great week. We are back at it with Part 3 of our series about how our churches should respond to the new world we are living in. It seems like every day, I hear another insane story of cultural change and the nonsense that seems to be everywhere in our world. As we look to the future, it is paramount that we take these changes seriously and adjust our leadership accordingly.

Last week, we discussed the need to be clear and upfront about our beliefs. One of our faithful readers reached out to ask what that looks like practically. He jokingly (I hope) asked if their position on sexuality should be on the welcome sign. This is a great question, so let me take a minute to answer it.

First, while I do think we should be upfront and clear about what we believe, that doesn’t mean the details of your doctrinal statement should be on your marketing materials. When it comes to marketing/advertising, I’d recommend using language that makes your fundamental beliefs obvious without getting into all the details. Phrases like “Gospel-centered,” “Bible-based,” “Historically Orthodox,” and others can communicate who you are effectively without putting “Homosexuality is a sin” on your flyers.

When I said clear and upfront, I had in mind churches that intentionally obscure their position on those issues to draw in a wider range of people, only to unveil those beliefs (if they have them) later on in the process, once those people are already hooked in. Going forward, I think strategies like that will increasingly be considered disingenuous and deceptive.

This week, we will take last week’s topic a step further. Not only is it important for you to be clear and upfront about what you believe in general, but it is also going to be important that you regularly teach (from the pulpit and in classroom/group settings) about the most pressing issues in your people’s lives is not a new strategy. Twenty years ago, you could gather a crowd by teaching about marriage, parenting, and sex. In fact, this was the foundation of the Seeker Sensitive movement. Identify “felt needs” and teach biblical principles about those needs. Hundreds of thousands of people have joined churches because of these kinds of sermons and they served people well.

The strategy going forward isn’t different, but the content certainly is. You can preach a marriage and parenting series now and perhaps gain a few Boomers and old Gen Xers along the way, but Millenials and Gen Z aren’t getting married or having kids at nearly the same rate. Besides, people aren’t really feeling the pinch on those issues anymore. Not because those issues aren’t relevant; it’s because there are so many other issues that are far more pressing.

In workplaces around the country, employees are being asked (and sometimes forced) to declare their pronouns, honor the chosen pronouns of their coworkers, attend and abide by the teachings of “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” seminars, and work alongside people who are actively hostile to Christianity.

These are the issues that are confounding the people we are trying to reach and serve. So, these are the issues we need to talk about. People need biblical categories for sexuality, gender, race, equality, and belief itself. The language our culture uses to describe these things is un-Christian and unhelpful. Secular language establishes the categories and rules by which people are playing the game, and the rules are wrong.

We have to lay a philosophical and theological foundation for these issues and establish Christian categories and language in the minds of our people. The very idea that pronouns can be chosen and that they would be distinct from your God-given biology is starting from a place of deep foolishness and deception.

We have to help our people think well about these things, and that starts with language. Culture is redefining words and with it, reshaping reality. I have a teenager who is exposed to these ideas every day at school and with her limited social media access. Reality is being reframed in ways that are not only illogical but deeply harmful. Some of our most important work is to constantly reframe the world for our people.

Progressives want to frame the world around identity, choice, and self-expression. These aren’t harmful concepts, but when they are detached from a gospel framework, they are destructive. A gospel framework starts with a creation identity, explains harm in sin language, and seeks reconciliation and redemption through the cross. We have to constantly reframe life in these terms.

But it doesn’t edoesn’t just reframing. Our people face practical situations every day that are unprecedented in the world’s history. Should an accountant put their pronouns in their email signature? Should a nurse treat a patient like a man when they are a woman? When hiring, should a Christian take racial quotas into consideration?

We have to equip our folks to think well and act well.

This is not just for Christians; it is also an evangelistic endeavor. Many non-Christians in your city or town intuitively understand that what’s going on around them is crazy, but they don’t know what the alternative is. You can give them an alternative that is rooted in history and logic and (unbeknownst to them) empowered by the Holy Spirit.

We cannot avoid these issues if we want to survive the next decade. In fact, if we do not actively and intentionally teach our people how to think about these things and how to live out a Christian worldview, we will see another generation of young people deconstruct their faith and leave the church.

Lastly, we have to support our people so that they have the boldness to live out historic Christian convictions. That decision comes with real risk today. Lives may not be on the line, but livelihoods are. We have to create a supportive community that emboldens people to take risks and live out their faith boldly. We’ll cover this in greater detail in a future email, but it’s someting we need to be thinking about.

Let me sum it all up this way: The crazier the world gets, the saner we and our people have to be. We have to be able to see through the lies and normalization strategies that the culture is using, and we need to be able to help our people do the same. In the process, non-Christians will be compelled by the truth and beauty of the gospel and come to faith.

So let’s preach boldly, but also clearly deconstruct the foolishness around us so that we can construct coherent and compelling worldviews for our people.