So what does it mean for your Simple Church to "stretch out it's tent pegs" and "open it's curtains wide"? If we believe that the church must leave the building, what does that mean? Does it mean that we are now confined to the four walls of a house, and there we must stay? As I ponder what this "stretch" might mean for us as a Network of Simple Churches, I came across Roger Thoman's Simple Church journal. I think it has something to say to us as we ask this important question. I hope this encourages you in the right direction.
It’s important that the church continue to dream and have visions of what we—the Bride—can become. I don’t claim prophetic insight here, just a longing to see the church fulfill her destiny. Note that these thoughts relate mostly to the church in the “West” where it has been long established but vitally in need of renewal.
What the Church of the Future Looks Like:
The church of the future continues to throw off its religious garb that has robbed it of its impact and lulled it into sleepiness. Intimacy with Jesus becomes a reality, not just a clich%uFFFD, and Jesus begins to shape His own church in His own image: irreligious, daring, caring, compassionate, out-of-the-box, person-impacting, regional-impacting, adventurous, incarnational among the poor, without bounds, and full of power.
The church becomes known more for its works than its rhetoric. The Good News that is proclaimed as a result of this is simply the person Jesus. His presence and work is expressed, not just with words, but with actions that demonstrate the compassionate love of God.
Discipleship movements spring up naturally and regularly in workplaces and neighborhoods as people seek out authentic life with Jesus. Followers of Jesus present a counter-cultural way of life that challenges yet attracts more and more people who have become disillusioned with the so-called American Dream.
New monastic communities continue to spring up that take on more and more of the social responsibilities in many needy areas. They provide many services that otherwise would no longer available: rehab and sober living homes, medical clinics, elderly care, support for the disabled, and counseling for the emotionally distressed.
At the same time, social entrepreneurs are inspired to start more and more non-profits as well as for-profit ventures that address social ills and poverty through creative innovations. And Jesus is given the glory for this. These ventures create jobs while providing solutions for people’s needs whose lives are impacted by a declining world economy. Radically creative innovations are given to these new breed of entrepreneurs who live personally for the Kingdom and do not buy into the excesses of materialism.
Coffee shops continue to become more and more pronounced as places where followers of Jesus can be found. Some type of discovery Bible study is taking place around the clock in almost every place where God has empowered Starbucks (and other coffee companies) to build space for this to take place.
Discipleship movements are taking place through social networking and ipad-type video conferencing.
Traditional churches continue to exist but those that thrive look more like para-church organizations than churches that we see today as they involve themselves in the real needs of the community they are in.
At the same time, most of the “real” church is less visible apart from its service to the community. It is organized at a grass roots level using social media as the primary means of communication and coordination.
Self-sustaining leadership “hubs” have developed that connect relationally to regional and cyber networks. These hubs are apostolic in nature, selfless in the way they function, require no formal allegiance, yet serve the organic movements of the Spirit.
I believe that, as we walk forward with vision, faith, and a deepening love for Jesus, we will see the church become more of what we are meant to be than ever before. It’s an exciting time to be His!
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