“The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Bob Dylan’s song describing the social and political upheaval of the 60’s is just as apropos regarding today’s spiritual culture of North America. This was again brought to my attention recently: first via a facebook exchange then by a news article.
A post from one of my Facebook connection evidenced our cultures discontent with religion. They posted a church welcome card and the visitor’s comments. Now, to protect the anonymity of the individuals, I won’t give the specifics. However, you can see this visitor’s skepticism and caution in their comment.
The ensuing FB posts were both interesting and alarming; the majority was from those with a “church” background and focused on criticizing the guest. There were a few, honest enough to consider the idea that the problem might lay, not with the guest, but with traditional church/religion.
Further, what I saw in this scenario was a cultural shift, regarding church, religion and spirituality we are experiencing in North America. The old ways of the traditional or institutional church are quickly losing their appeal. Depending upon what sources you listen to (Hugh Halter, Alan Hirsch) the traditional church appeals to, at best, 40% of the population: more realistically – 30%.
We live in a culture where many individuals are spiritually hungry, especially among those under thirty. However, this hunger has not resulted in what we typically call church growth. Many of these hungry people are not interested in organized religion or church: in fact, many are actually turned off by traditional church.
Some of the common complaints about Christians are that they are:
Hypocritical, judgmental and their acts of serving or “evangelism” are agenda based. It is also noted by many researchers that there is little difference in the behavior of Christians and non-christians in areas such as divorce and charitable giving as well as minimal differences in how they define success and pursue materialism.
As I began to ruminate on this, I see there are two paths that one could take regarding their response to this change.
- First, one could bewail the signs of the times, circle the wagons and pound the “truth” (doctrine) to protect the holy remnant.
- Second: discard the strongholds of man’s religious traditions that are making the word of God powerless and change our thinking and actions to manifest His kingdom.
Jesus and his kingdom is the answer to the cultural shift: to the religious discontented and skeptics. The church/assembly that focuses on equipping and empowring the believer to ministry, focuses on making disciples and demonstrates His kingdom, is the one who will be able to show this culture the reality of our God!
The obvious challenge is the change that is required. In some instances, it may require a major overhaul of our paradigm of church to transform our thinking to a Kingdom paradigm. The church leadership that has successfully made this transition will find its views of God’s purpose, the salvation experience and the ministry of believers also changed: they will be more Kingdom focused.
The following is taken from our book: Living In Kingdom Authority, Every Believer’s Privilege and it gives some of the essential characteristics of a church that is Kingdom focused.
The Kingdom focused Church has as its purpose and goal to fill the earth with the image and glory of Jesus Christ. Just as God’s intent from creation was that Adam was made in His image and commanded to fill the earth, the Kingdom focused Church is to raise up born again believers who are renewed after the image of the one who created them. These believers are then sent into the world declaring the kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom focused Church sees salvation, the born again experience, as an entrance into Kingdom work. Jesus came preaching that men were to repent because the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. To one religious leader, Jesus plainly stated that to see or enter the kingdom of Heaven, one must be born again of the water and the Spirit. This born again experience implies a new beginning, not an arrival at a destination. We are born again so we can see and enter the Kingdom. The proper perspective of heaven is that it is our reward for hearing “well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into your rest”(Matthew 25:21).
The Kingdom focused church does not concentrate on the building of edifices or programs. It seeks the demonstration and propagation of the good news of Jesus Christ and His kingdom. The life of its members are to manifest the Kingdom of God daily. This is accomplished by recognizing the priesthood of every believer. Each believer is empowered by the Spirit, given a measure of gifting by the Spirit, and expected by the Spirit to use their giftings for the Kingdom purpose. It is the responsibility of the five-fold ascension gift ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) to equip the believers with knowledge in how to use their gifting for His glory. Part of this equipping is that once the believers are trained, they are sent out to use their giftings in the community. Therefore, the Kingdom focused Church’s belief in the priesthood of all believers and the sending of the believers will result in a large portion of their resources being used outside the church facilities.
As we can see, the Kingdom focused church has a radically different paradigm of ministry. It is my opinion that demonstrating His kingdom in this manner is the answer to the criticism and skepticism of this culture. This type of Kingdom lifestyle is genuine, lacks agendas, non-judgmental and authentic in relational involvement. In short, it is acting like Jesus in the everyday routine of life.
So, instead of reminiscing of the good ol’ days and lamenting the times that are a changin': we can choose to see this as the greatest opportunity to demonstrate the reality of His kingdom!
Need help changing? Dr Martin lives in St Louis MO, with his wife Ava and their dog Zoe. His ministry is to assist church leadership in developing membership ministry involvement and growth. The focus is on teaching and empowering the body of Christ to demonstrate the power of His kingdom in tangible daily life. The results: increased faith and the potential for greater revival and harvest. He is available to speak to your local assembly, organization or ministry. He is also available to assist in the transformation of your church culture. For more information, check us out here