The church in first world countries, as a whole, is losing ground, neither making converts nor making an impact. There are many ideas, many books, talks and blog posts, outlining the problems and the way forward, as someone sees it.
But I recently came across a brief overview that I think provides a better understanding and suggests a better way forward that most.
Jim Herrington is a pastor in Houston, Texas, and the Team Leader at Faithwalking, which is an organisation trying to mobilise christians “to serve the poor, the marginalized, and those in need to work for the common good and to restore individuals, social systems, communities and nations to God’s design.”
Jim was asked to speak at a State of the City Symposium on the state of the church in the city. His analysis was (as they say) “on point”, being relevant (I think) to Australia just as much as Houston. I encourage you to read it if you are interested in how the church should be going about its mission in 2017.
In a nutshell ….
To give you a brief overview of what is a very succinct presentation, here are Jim’s main points:
Many churches struggle to accept our context in a post-Christendom, post-modern time. This means they struggle to have an effective mission strategy because they don’t understand the mission field. He believes we need to transition to three new ways of thinking and action:
- Holistic focus. “Rather than just focusing on personal salvation (the focus of the right) or just focusing on community transformation (the focus on the left), there is a growing commitment to hold these two in tension – not one or the other but one and the other.”
- A sending church. Recognising that God is already active in the world, we need to ask: “What would it be like if the shalom of God came to our” workplace, school, sporting club? And then get out and try to bring it about.
- Spiritual formation. “Making church members is a very different thing than making disciples.” Getting people to attend services and give money, and teaching them information about the Bible, are not the level of spiritual formation we need to truly follow Jesus.