Dan Kimball Discusses: The Church We Hope to See
In classrooms, student centers, hallways, common rooms, dormitories and libraries across the country, undergraduate and graduate students regularly engage in thought-provoking discussions about the future—theirs individually as well as the broader social and professional environments in which they will soon find themselves. These collegiate atmospheres and the aspirations of young adulthood often give rise to some great innovations and fresh perspectives that can dramatically shape what is to come. When we make a point of listening to what these future leaders have to say, we can see glimpses of what tomorrow may bring—to society in general and to the church in particular.
In October, Outreach columnist, pastor and teacher Dan Kimball sat down with a group of students from George Fox University in Portland, Ore., to talk about what they think about the current status of the church and what they dream the church of the future will be like.
Dan Kimball: We’re talking here about the church and looking to the future of the church. There are all kinds of studies saying that a lot of younger people are leaving the church. But when I get to travel around the country, I see churches, like Solid Rock Church in Portland here, where a lot of young people are coming. So I want to ask you, What do you think the future of the church is? If you could start a church, or be a part of an ideal church of the future, how would you describe it?
Facilitator: Dan Kimball, teaching pastor, Vintage Faith Church, Santa Cruz, Calif., and professor of missional leadership at George Fox University, Portland, Ore.
Emily-Grace Cropper: The future church or the ideal church would be one that’s based around relationship, being in community, and then also learning about people because of the want to love people the way Christ did and then loving people well. I think a big problem with churches today is that we want people to be able to come to heaven, and so we tell them, “Well, you’re sinning because you’re doing this, this and this.” They might be sinning and that might be really bad for them, but said in that way, it’s really not good. [They’re] just like, “OK, well, screw you. If you’re just going to tell me how messed up I am, I’m going to either not go to your church at all or not go to any church at all.” So something I would appreciate about a church of the future would be that it was based on relationships and getting to know people, getting to know their culture and background, loving them and entering into mutual relationship. Then, when you talk to someone about how they’re sinning, it’s like coming to someone and saying, “I’m really and legitimately concerned about you, and I want to speak this to you because I want your life to be better.”
Emily-Grace Cropper, 20, of Newberg, Ore. Junior at George Fox University, studying sociology with minors in Spanish and Christian ministries. Grew up in and attends a Friends church
Elizabeth Tolon: I want to see a church that’s diverse. I want to see young, old, black, white, families, single, married, all of them. Let us reflect the kingdom of heaven in what we do and who we are. I want to see intentional community, and I want to see a church that serves its community. … A church that lives outside its means and says, ”We will be radical in our generosity and overwhelming in our hospitality.” How that’s played out, that’s not for me to define. And honestly, I’m not too worried about it. But I feel like if you hold to this doctrine, to this message of Christ and Him crucified, then you will see His love and His life overflowing and pouring out of that church. … Christ shows us in His life, and ultimately in His death and resurrection, how to live a life poured out for Him. So I look at a church and say, “Are we not supposed to be that? Are we not supposed to be radical in all that we do and how we give and how we show love to one another?”
Elizabeth Tolon, 22, of Gresham, Ore. Senior at George Fox University, seeking a double-degree in political science and music. Grew up in the Church of Christ. Attends a nondenominational church.