Last month a friend asked me to tell him my best advice for the Church. At the time, I just laughed and said, “That’s not my place… right?” He shrugged, “Why not?”
Later, as I thought about his question more, I started writing down a few things, just a few thoughts, ideas, and hopes I have for the Church.
I’m still not sure it’s my place to offer the Church ideas. But as a member of the God’s Church and somebody who spends my fair share of time thinking about where the Church might be or what it might look like 10, 20, 50 years from now, I do often wonder what actions we should be taking now to inspire the world’s future believers.
Here’s what I wrote down (in no particular order).
1) The Church needs to stand in front of a mirror on a regular basis. We need to start being honest about who we are, what we look like, our failures, our sins, and our habits.
2) The Church needs to sober of its addiction to cool and/or its addiction of trying to be cool. We weren’t called to be cool or to pursue cool. Our addiction to that end is sucking us dry of meaning, depth, and future relevance. Besides, the Church isn’t cool, especially when its trying to be.
3) The Church should stop morphing those big biblical/spiritual promises found in the stories of scripture into blanketed God-promises for all mankind.
4) The Church should be known by who it unites, who it brings together, who it loves… (Of course, ironically, the Church has always been known by who it unites, who it brings together, who it loves…)
5) The Church should stop being handled, managed, and its future strategized like a brand. We aren’t The Church™. We’re the Church. Which means we must stop managing the Church, selling the Church, and using the Church like its a brand with franchises and stock options.
6) The Church should stop promoting God and Jesus like brands, too. If we believe that God’s name is holy, why on earth would we use it in vain like we own the copyright on it?
7) The Church needs to stop worshiping guns, sports, the CEO/Leadership culture, cultural masculinity, and other American obsessions.
8) The Church should be known more for celebrating and experiencing the mysteries of God as opposed to learning and reciting humanity’s definitions of God.
9) The Church should stop being a large deep financial pit known more for its buildings, technology, and sound and light shows rather than who it helps, locally and around the world.
10) The Church should stop building churches and ministries that are defined and held together by personalities and/or celebrities.
11) The Church should stop fighting a war against religion and embrace the fact that we are a part of religion, that not all religion is bad, and that sometimes religion (in its myriad of forms) can actually be spiritually helpful for some believers.
12) The Church should stop creating enemies out of people with whom it disagrees.
13) The Church should be known for creating/engaging space, time, and practice for helping people connect to the God of the Universe.
14) The Church must start owning its past, not simply the good parts of our history but also the tragic, violent, and controlling parts. By owning our Christian and not-so Christian history, we can learn valuable lessons and ideas for how to move forward in peace, with hope and grace.
15) The Church should be defined by the teachings of Christ more so than the theologies of Paul, the Apostle.
16) The Church should be an institution/environment where gender equality is not only embraced, it is celebrated and passionately promoted.
17) The Church should pursue all things with a spirit of humility.
18) The Church should embrace a path that engages and celebrates community but never at the expense of silencing or ignoring the needs, ideas, and stories of an individual.
19) The Church should pursue being an environment where questions and doubt are as central to the journey of faith as answers and belief.
20) The Church should go to great lengths to ensure that its systems/environments do not favor one person’s story over another, the rich over the poor, the influential over the lay person, the man over the woman, the saint over the sinner.
21) The Church should always be an advocate for the “least of these,” never harboring those whose actions are harmful or abusive and never silencing the outcries and concerns of victims or those speaking on behalf of victims.
22) The Church should evaluate and/or rethink its role among its community, seeking to serve the greater good of all people regardless of their creed, origins, or orientation.
23) The Church should work alongside the mental health community in pursuit of providing an environment of faith and spiritual healing that does not contradict or work against the advice/direction of an individual’s doctor/health care provider.
24) The Church should be led by individuals who embrace their need for accountability, direction, and grace.
25) The Church should be a passionate advocate for life—all life—always seeking to use its platform/influence/resources to bring awareness, aid, education, healing, and sustainability to those whose livelihoods are endangered.
26) The Church should be a safe, welcoming, and affirming environment for all members of the LGBTQA communities. Our passions should also include being chief advocates of their stories, never excluding, preventing, or discouraging any LGBTQA persons from connecting with God and spiritual community.
27) The Church should seek to bring glory to God through worship, confession, prayer, and pursuit of the common good.
28) The Church should seek out ways to bring unity among communities of faith, both Christian and non-Christian alike, helping the culture at large to discover and embrace paths toward peace, tolerance, and goodwill.
29) The Church should seek out ways to engage God’s resurrection story here on Earth.
30) The Church should use/borrow popular culture sparingly, with wisdom.
31) The Church should stop perverting the “good news” with individualism, prosperity messaging, and grandiose promises of transformation.
32) The Church should stop using its overwhelming support of Israel as reasons/excuses to stereotype, fear, and hate followers of Islam.
33) The Church should inspire faith, not fear, arouse belief, not doctrine, awaken people’s curiosity about God, not manipulate God to fit people’s questions.
34) The Church should be known for creating, not mimicking. We should inspire humanity’s urges to imagine, dream, and invent. We should be known for new ideas, new art, and new creations as opposed to critiquing culture, copying culture, and protecting our culture.
35) The Church should always be seeking out opportunities to further reconciliation among races, never becoming comfortable with mediocre forms of racial equality.
36) The Church should be Good News. Not old news. Not bad news. Not fake news. Not fear-filled news. But Good News.
37) The Church should be about confession, about forgiveness, and about resisting the temptations to use confession and forgiveness as reasons for keeping secrets and not calling out the evil deeds of powerful and rich people.
38) The Church should embrace these words of Jesus: That they [the Church] all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
This list is hardly exhaustive. And hardly perfect. Just a list of things I think about when I think about the future of the Church.
What do you think about when you think about the future of the Church?