Is It Time to Do Church Differently?

John ArmstrongMissional Church

I have written in numerous contexts that the church needs to rethink its mission as soon as possible. Sadly, most churches are not doing this.

We must grasp anew the way to do church in the twenty-first century. The message of the gospel does not change but the way we make disciples is changing and must change even more than most people are ready to acknowledge. The complexities of the modern cultural context are unique. The way we gain real access to people's minds and hearts is being altered so quickly that only those who are doing evangelism in the trenches seem to recognize the real significance and power of this hyper-change.

The recently retired U. S. President of the Navigators, Alan Andrews, succinctly sums up what I see when he says:

In my opinion the time has come to do church differently. I am convinced that we must shift our focus from highly programmed ministry to developing Missional/Transformational Communities that are formed as a seamless organic whole. These types of communities are rare and difficult to visualize because we have moved so forcefully to programmatic ministry in the last half of the previous century. . . . Now the climate in America has begun to shift. Much of the culture is beginning to look for integrity and wholeness. Many people are coming from broken backgrounds with deep wounds in their souls. They long for something that provides real relationships, something that provides integration for their lives, and something that fills the longings of their soul. In short, though they are not aware of it, they seek the whole Gospel for their whole lives.

I believe Andrews has stated what is very obvious with unique insight and clarity. Read his statement once again. Just when the church felt that it had mastered the programmatic approach to evangelism and mission the whole game was changed. "The climate in American has begun to shift." Yes, but it has more than begun, it has shifted. And it is not going back to the old way anytime soon. An entire generation has been reared in broken homes and by parents with little or no moral anchor. A whole generation has been raised in a context where they know almost nothing about God or how to think about eternal values and choices. What this generation longs for is relationships, not answers. The answers we have will only matter when there is a real relationship. My generation does not understand this and continues to do church the way we always did it. We cannot "visualize" this, as Andrews says, because we have no reference point for it in our collective experience. I think we learn best by doing and this will be something we must do in order to learn. It will require real faith to do it, something few have these days. But those that do have such faith need to be equipped and encouraged. This is why ACT 3 exists: "To equip leaders in unity for Christ's mission."

I think our present cultural context is far more like the culture the earliest Christians faced than that which my grandparents, or even my parents, faced. This mega-shift is truly remarkable. Let those with eyes to see grasp this powerfully and then begin to ask the truly missional questions that this moment requires of us if we are to be faithful to our own time with the good news of Christ's gospel.

While you are at it pray for ACT 3. This is what my vision is all about. I need both your prayer and financial support it I am to get this message to leaders all across America. I also need your personal support so I can help those leaders who see this way of "doing church differently." It is not easy to communicate this message to my generation since they do not have eyes to see it.