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Forward Thinking

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Emerging leaders on the challenges and opportunities of the next decade. Part One

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David Kinnaman notes in his book You Lost Me that we live in a world of rapid, “discontinuously different” technological—as well as social and spiritual—change. You might not have a personal jetpack or hoverboard, but that smartphone in your pocket has, by some measures, more computing power than the Mars Curiosity rover. The significance of these changes extends far beyond shiny new gadgets. The changes in technology, social media and culture over the last decade have affected the way we think, the way we relate to one another and even the way we do outreach.

What will the next 10 years look like? What major shifts should we anticipate? How will they impact the way we do evangelism and ministry? These questions matter, not only to help us anticipate and aptly handle change, but also to help us more effectively reach our world for Christ.

What affect will greater diversity in the racial and ethnic landscape of our country have in the next 10 years? Will the “nones”—people who do not affiliate with any specific religion—continue to rise? As mobile technology overtakes the Web, how will it alter the way we do ministry on a daily basis? How will the forces of globalization, privatization and consumerism continue to reshape our culture’s perspectives?

Some might prophesy doom in the face of such radical change and uncertainty, but the church is in a unique position to leverage the new opportunities our changing culture provides to share the love of Christ with new generations. Where the world erects barriers of division, the church is called to break down walls through the power of Christ’s reconciling grace. And above all, no matter how dramatically cultural tides may shift, we faithfully point the way back toward our anchor, the One who remains the same yesterday, today and forever.

Outreach connected with several rising church leaders across a variety of ministries to hear their insights on changes the church should anticipate in the next 10 years and what impact such change will have on outreach. What follows is part one of two parts.

Chris Galanos: New Models

Lead Pastor, Experience Life, Lubbock, Texas

Church models that are effective at reaching the lost right now may be much less effective 10 years from now. It’s easy to fall in love with the way we do things rather than falling in love with the mission Jesus has given us. If the mission is the priority, when our traditions, models and methods aren’t fulfilling that mission, we shouldn’t hesitate to abandon them in favor of something else. The mission doesn’t change. The models and methods that best accomplish the mission do.

Leonce Crump: Creative Diversity

Lead Planter and Pastor, Renovation Church, Atlanta, Ga.

We need to anticipate the changing cultural landscape. The church, for the most part, has remained monocultural—across all races and ethnicities.

I don’t know if there’s going to be any dramatic swing in the next 10 years, but I do think—especially in terms of reaching people who don’t know Jesus—it’s going to be increasingly difficult for any monocultural church to do that effectively. To think we can lead and pastor and plant churches that are going to have any effective cultural imprint and only represent one slice of the pie is a fool’s errand. Too often, the church has been resistant to seeing that happen. When you look at the rest of the world, you’ve got Lil’ Wayne in skinny jeans rapping over an electric guitar, and you’ve got Bon Iver and Kanye West making music together. The lines are really blurring, and where the church is supposed to be cultivating, creating and making culture—our Genesis mandate—we are trying to catch up, when we should be at the forefront. We must allow the context we’re in to teach us how to reach it, to dictate the choices we make in extending the truth of the Gospel and the reality of Jesus.

Churches will have to reverse engineer a plan: This is where we are; let’s look around us. Does our congregation look like our grocery store or other third spaces here in our neighborhood? Does our neighborhood really need an art gallery, or does it need a job-training center, a work-release program and tutoring? Are we choosing based on what’s cool, or effective?

And then let’s look at our leadership: Who’s on the stage? Is the stage representative of the full breadth of God’s creative genius here in this neighborhood? In our church, our neighborhood dictates that if we’re going to reach the people outside of the walls, then our stage has to have diversity in gender, race and ethnicity.

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