Successful 21st Century Church

Successful 21st Century Church

Posted on 31. Jan, 2011 by in Kingdom Notes eZine

Apostolic Note Vol 5 No 2 (PDF Download)

For a recent conference, I was asked to be one of the members of a panel discussion, our topic was: The Church in the 21st Century. A lofty theme for a two-hour dialogue.

In preparation, I spent much time ruminating on what has been written about the current church situation and what is seen as biblical models of a New Testament church. The following is a few thoughts I jotted down. Now they are not a complete dissertation, but I think, they are good discussion points to starts some dialogue. So, tell me what you think.

Church growth
We are well into the 21st century, yet when someone speaks of church growth it is predominantly from an old paradigm, ie: numerical growth of a local assembly. The typical concept of church growth is to find a better way to attract people to an event on Sunday. The thought is, if we can increase the number in a service, we think we can increase the chances of someone being saved and then continuing to attend on a regular basis. The fact is we are just looking to do what we have always done, just in a more attractional way!

In the traditional, attractional church of the 20th century, the Sunday event is seen as the major point of evangelism, or preaching of the salvation message. This mindset causes church leaders to search out the latest, greatest program that will attract a crowd. The majority of ministries can devolve into programs that actually promote the church, hoping it will inspire those to attend. (believe me, I have been there done that as a pastor!)

Unfortunately, this is still DOING church using a model that is becoming obsolete. Depending upon what sources you read, this way of church appeals to at best 40% of the population; but realistically, about 30% (Hirsch, Salter). So we have the majority of “churches” all scrapping for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie.

Now before you crucify me, I am not saying this is WRONG, just not as effective as it was many decades ago. Also, I am not saying to do away with the weekly gathering. But what we need is a new context/paradigm/box/perspective (buzz words) to see this gathering in to be more Gospel friendly.

So what is the answer to successful church in the 21st century? I believe it is focusing on BEING the church, not how we DO church. Or another way of saying it: grow people, not churches.

Jesus states that He would build his church: He did not empower us to do this. He did give us a commission, not to grow churches, but to make disciples by teaching them to be obedient to His way of life (commandments). If we focus on our part, He will do his.

If the church is to be successful church in 21st century, each born again believer must think like missionaries (missional): Contextualizing a holistic Gospel in the lives of the culture they are trying to reach. What this entails is living the gospel AS good news in the daily lives of those we interact with. It is taking the Gospel beyond the salvation experience and demonstrating its transformational power. It is the application of this transformational power of the Gospel that will result in disciples being formed.

If the church is to fulfill the commission to make disciples, there first must be an empowering and then a sending of the existing disciples. The empowerment process must convey that the believer has been authorized by Jesus to be His representative and image bearer to this world. The demonstration of this empowerment will present a relevant Gospel in the context of the culture they are living.

Relevance -“having direct bearing on the matter in hand.”

Now what relevance means to the success of the 21st century church is this: Demonstrating how the gospel reaches into the nooks and crannies of life and address the deepest issues of our existence, reveals its relevance BEYOND the salvation experience.

For each of us, our choices determine the outcomes of our lives and those choices are dictated by our values. The relevant application of the Gospel reveals how the good news of the Kingdom challenges and transforms our values, which in turn, will affect our choices. Each person and culture has ideologies that are deeply ingrained in their value system. In the discipleship process, it is the responsibility of the believer to root these out and present the Good News in a way that addresses these, thus making the Gospel relevant.

So in summary, if the church is to be successful in the 21st century, it must change its paradigm from an attractional model only: to an attractional AND scattering process. The leadership of the local assemblies should focus on training and empowering the believers THEN sending them out to demonstrate Jesus and his kingdom, thus making disciples.

Then Jesus will build his church.

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8 Responses to “Successful 21st Century Church”

  1. Apostle Jeff Herbert

    01. Feb, 2011

    Fabulos articule. The very thing the Lord has been saying to me. I need understanding in discipleship. Most of my congregation are disciples and and are ministering to others. Our church vision statement is Every Saint a Minister walking in destiny. Please tell me how to disciple a new convert when they won’t come back to church. Blessings Apostle Jeff

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  2. Artie Davis

    07. Feb, 2011

    Great insight and so true Martin, we must change! We must be in a constant state of change to “flow” with the culture. To often the church goes from “Anchor point to Anchor point” and never fulling engaging the flow of culture to be the most effective!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  3. David Alves

    16. Feb, 2011

    Martin, tone is difficult to convey in a written comment, so please receive this in a conversational (not grouchy or adversarial) tone. The question is sincere.

    To whom would this be news? Are there really churches out there that don’t get this yet? Perhaps I’m missing something, but the numerical growth paradigm was dealt with in the 80’s. And in the 90’s the move of the Spirit seemed to be toward community, Lifegroups, cells, etc. I suspect that now we’re again hearing about the Ministry of Jesus again. But any church that is still about numbers has missed what God is doing by a decade. Would you agree?

    Perhaps we’re moving into the season of suffering. I believe that American believers are going to face what the rest of the world has lived with throughout history. I could be wrong. In any case, I’d like your thoughts and response. Perhaps another blog post? I’ll read it with interest.


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    • Martin Schmaltz

      17. Feb, 2011

      David, thanks for the thoughts. Based on my exposure and the writings of others, it still seems the ultimate judge of church success is the numbers game. I have seen an increase in the ideas of cell groups, home fellowships etc. but unfortunately, theses seem to focus more on ministry inside the box mentality. Many end up as just another program for the attractional church.

      RE season of suffering: what I do see is a tension of transition. There is a wrestling with the idea that what was is not working, but yet not totally sure what is coming, I am speaking of church structure/function/operation. Obviously we know Who is coming.

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  4. David Alves

    19. Feb, 2011

    You’re right about “just another program.” The program-based mentality keeps us from being the Father’s family and keeps us separated, while draining the life out of our people.

    I’m certain that Jesus did not die for our well-oiled machine. I have been a part of the problem and now by God’s grace I’m trying to be a part of the solution. I’m convinced that the future is going to look like FAMILY. But the Lord is first trying to get us to the place that we see ourselves as He does. That’s why I wrote my book. And I’m sure that’s why you write and labor. Blessings.

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  5. Anthony Bachman

    16. Jun, 2011

    Enjoyed this blog. I too have wrestled and wrote a whole series about the 21st Century Church on my personal Blog As a church we have fallen short “equipping”, “training”, “preparing”, or ‘discipling” (whatever you want to call it) those who come to our churches. I have come to look at “growth” differently as I have wrestled with Ephesians 4 and how it applies to the 21st Century Church. We are to “equip the saints for the work of the service”, not “equip the ‘staff’…” as so many “growing” churches now do! The Church needs to invest in its own people, so they can be released to “be the Church”.

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  6. Andres

    15. Jul, 2011

    thank you brother martin for this article. I will not be stress for now on, I will let jesus build his church. Sometimes we have our mind mix up with this ”grow” topic, that we forget our target. Our mission is to make the gospel alive, God will do the other part.

    keep writing with annointing!

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