If you missed the introduction to our series click here to go check it out.
This post is part of a series titled “Seven Pivotal Shifts That Will Revolutionize Churches In 2018”. In this post, we’ll get past the introduction, and dig into why I think that the churches who actually make an impact in 2018 are 1st century style churches. In the coming posts, I’ll unpack what churches that reach people actually do, and I think it will resonate with what you see happening around you. In other words, it’ll start to make sense…even if most of our churches don’t.
Here’s the good news…it’s not too late to change. These are seven pivotal shifts that will revolutionize your ability to engage the lost culture around you. Here’s the first shift:
#1. Churches that pivot to kingdom-minded thinking will cause the next revolution
Director of New Breed Church Planting, Matt Frettwell wrote “Everyone is willing to help you become successful, as long as you don’t become more successful than they are.” Cynical? Maybe? True? Definitely.
If you read Church Zero, I juxtapose churches that build brand empires against churches that are kingdom expanding. You can tell the difference almost immediately, when you walk into a service, but here are some hallmarks of empires:
- Empires are tangible
- Empires have ownership
- Empires bear somebody’s name
- Empires usually follow a charismatic leader
- Empires boast about numbers or satellites
- Empires exist for the empire
That last point is the saddest of all. Contrast those hallmarks with the characteristics of the Kingdom of God.
- The Kingdom of God bears the name of Jesus
- The Kingdom is invisible
- The Kingdom lacks tangible borders
For all of our criticism of the disciples for getting the Kingdom wrong, thinking it was about numbers, dominance, and showing the world through a show of force, we still operate on these earthly principles within the churches four walls. The Kingdom however operates by the Spirit, who doesn’t share the growth philosophy of human beings. Am I saying it’s wrong to have a church name or brand? Nope. But the Spirit doesn’t give a rip about building your church’s personal brand. The Spirit is unimpressed by how many churches a big church plants, and is probably more impressed by the number of people it’s funded in secret with no connection to the church’s brand at all. That’s when you know it’s about one name – the name of Jesus. That’s when the kingdom is invisible, the Spirit animating its growth like a single living organism across the globe.
When that happens, we are in step with His kingdom purposes, rather than our denominational agendas. Interestingly, on the field of mission, many of our denominational barriers have come down in the 21st century, and the networks and denominations that are gaining traction are working together. As the borders of the kingdom expand on the front lines, the sobering reality on the home front is that the Millennial generation aren’t impressed by whatever lines we’ve drawn in the sand, or whatever flag we wave, if it’s not the flag of Jesus.
In fact, research is demonstrating that rather than separating on the finer points of theological tribes, the next generation is already beginning to work together with others who share an affinity on the larger missional mandate of Christ himself. And so much more is being accomplished. Years ago, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones started a movement called the Evangelical Movement which banded together Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, and others in the unity of the truth of the Gospel. They began to work together, and I for one, received a Master’s degree in theology from a college set up as a result.
True, we have differences, and Paul said that those have their necessary functions. We can maintain our tribal distinctions without sacrificing greater impact. Some baptize babies, while others do not. Some sing praise songs, while others sing hymns. Some are rooted in ancientness, and value a liturgy, while others prefer a contemporary approach. The question that this generation wants answered is “Does it really matter when it comes to reaching people where they’re at?” I think they’ve already heard our answer, and found it unacceptable when a world dies around them. Besides, they’ve already made up their minds about what Jesus would do. We gave them bracelets, even if we were lacking on the example.
Years ago, Bono of U2 approached the Christian leaders at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. He challenged some of the biggest church leaders of the day by saying asking where they were when it came to world hunger and extreme poverty. Through the efforts of the One Campaign and the RED Charity, Bono had worked all over the world with amazing and dedicated humanitarians, but when it came to cooperation with the church at large, it was conspicuously absent. His greatest shock, he confessed, was when he entered dialogue with prominent church leaders, they refused to get involved unless the organization was specifically Christian. He expected churches to give and help simply because it was what Christ called them to do. But there was that same old branding problem. Unless they got the credit for it, they weren’t interested. Bono challenged that the church was the sleeping giant, and until it roused itself, it would continue to be irrelevant on the world stage.
The next generation couldn’t give a rip about the brand. When religion goes corporate, it often becomes unable to hear the other side because it is busy protecting what has been built up. Empires fight endlessly over border disputes, sabotage fences, and act the fool. They shake fists in competition when they should be shaking hands in cooperation. What we try to hide with our words is obvious to the millennial generation who are witnessing our actions. Our eyes aren’t on Jesus anymore if you’re spending more time fighting other Christians than reaching a lost world rife with pain and suffering.
One of the greatest examples of kingdom minded thinking I’ve seen recently has been on the part of Greg Laurie who for this very reason embraced both Calvary Chapel and the Southern Baptists, believing that he could reach more lost people with the message of the gospel if he did so. Another example of this kingdom minded thinking has come from the North American Board (kudos again southern Baptists!) who reserve two slots per assessment for non-southern baptists to enter into their pipeline. Because this has worked so well, they also started the SEND institute to share all of their resources with the other denominations in hopes of furthering kingdom expansion more rapidly.
This is just the beginning of what God is doing now, but it isn’t the start. God has been moving people this way for millenia. It’s always been his aim, as he taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come”. When the glory of God truly becomes our agenda, we fall in line with the purposes of God. Our prayer is finally answered. As we are aligned with his purposes, instead of our own agendas, we will see mission orgs working together, denominational leaders will cross barriers, and collaboration will begin taking place.
And you know what will happen?