My wife, parents, and I recently watched a stage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As I watched it I couldn’t help but imagine what the ghosts of church past (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three), present (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three), and future (Part One and Part Two) might say to those of us who follow Jesus. This week we’ll look at what the future holds.
What would the future of the Church look like if we were a people on mission? What does it even mean to be on mission? And, most importantly, what kind of fruit would be born in the American mission field from the Church being on mission together?
What I’d like to do in this post is to present the six parts of the missional DNA, as proposed by Alan Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways, and to dream briefly about how they might be lived out in the future.
Jesus is Lord
For the Church to be on mission together we must put at our center the faith claim that Jesus is Lord. Doing this would mean that other things that attempt to be the authorities of our lives would be explicitly set aside. Thus, individualism, materialism, and consumerism would not be chief characteristics of the Church who lives out the basic assertion that Jesus is Lord! We would be centered on and focused upon Jesus and nothing else!
The engine that would move the Church on mission forward would be disciple making. This activity is the basic call from Jesus (Matthew 28.19-20) and without it the Church stagnates and, eventually declines (in every way!). Thus, the Church on mission in the future will be involved in making disciples. In fact, everything that the Church on mission does will be seen in light of making disciples. So, if something isn’t encouraging disciple making, then it will be abandoned or revisioned. Nothing is sacrosanct, baring holding true to the gospel.
The Church on mission will be all about, well, being on mission! What will this look like? Small groups of followers of Jesus will band together in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a particular community. They will do so for the sake of the gospel and for the benefit of those for whom they are on mission. Then, these smaller groups will be networked together into larger entities through whom they will find support and inspiration.
The Church, for a long, long time, has focused its ministries in such a way that those who are gifted as pastors and/or teachers could thrive. The future Church on mission, however, will find a place for all of the Ephesians 4 categories of ministries, including the apostolic (pushing into new territories), the prophetic (telling the truth), and the evangelistic (relentless focus on making new disciples). This will be difficult but, in the end, it will be much more biblical and effective!
The Church on mission in the future will not find its organizational inspiration from machines, business models, or any other inorganic system. Instead it will organize itself around principles found in nature, principles about which Jesus himself taught. This will mean that top-down leadership models will be things of the past. Instead leadership models that emphasize leading from among the people will be stressed, resulting in greater involvement and buy-in among everyone.
Being on mission as the Church will mean that we will not be an inward-focused group. Instead we will be a group of people who are always interested in living on the edges, pushing into the chaos of our world, taking risk when needed, and being the culture changers that we are called to become. Church won’t be about getting fed, it will be about feeding the world the tasty gospel of Jesus Christ!
What do you think? What will the church on mission look like in the future? Let me know in the comments below!