If you were looking for a new church, what factors would be very important to you?
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
The future church will be established for God, a highway ready for his arrival. The church will shift uncomfortably from preparing a place for people to show up on Sundays to preparing a place for God to occupy night and day.
God is releasing prophetic forerunners who are sounding alarms about the future church. What is coming will disappoint a massive segment of Christianity as the only wine skin they have ever known is retired. The coming wine cannot be held by the current wineskin.
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22
I have prayerfully attempted to cast the vision and communicate the realities of the coming church—including the cost of embracing such a radical shift. Yet, few have broken away from the tired old model that’s about to be judged and removed. It’s better to shift now in this forerunner season than when there is no other option. Regardless of when we shift, our churches will most certainly lose the money and people that keep them running, so now is the time to prepare.
Aren’t people ready for a change anyway?
Reformation ends not in contemplation, but in action.― George Gillespie
So many say they are tired of church as usual, yet those same people are still employing the same methods of ministry they have for decades. Being tired of church as usual isn’t enough—we must embrace and initiate radical change.
- Show up.
- Worship for an hour.
- Take up an offering.
- Give announcements.
- Preach for an hour.
- Have some altar time.
- Go home.
- Repeat next week.
Church as usual.
This model is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s about to come to an end.
“We get called dishonoring for pointing out the garbage in the church, yet nobody ever seems to think it's dishonoring that somebody put the garbage there in the first place.”― D.R. Silva
Faced with the choice of between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, most everyone gets busy on the proof.― John Kenneth Galbraith
The Church of Choice
I recently asked on Facebook this question: “If you were searching for a new church today, what are some factors that would be very important to you?”
Here are some of the answers:
- Truth being preached.
- Safe place for my kids.
- There has to be prophetic worship, prophetic ministry, multiple leaders contributing (1 Cor. 14:26 as mentioned above), anointed prophetic word-centered preaching, prayer and prayer ministry, and outward vision.
- Fellowship-Worship-Doctrinally Pure-and a leadership that is not afraid of the spiritual gifting that God puts in people.
- Friendships, I hate being a back of the head watcher.
- Pastor that knows God's heart and can lead and teach accordingly. Jeremiah 3:15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
- More God, less talk of people.
- Manifest presence of God.
- None of the above: only whether or not I am called to be there.
Those are great answers, yet we must exercise caution. The coming church may be so extreme, narrow and on point that even much of what people shared above may not be realized… except the last bullet point. That’s the correct answer.
None of the above: only whether or not I am called to be there.
We have to yield to God’s coming design for the church, and we have to be willing to lay down our ideas of what church should be, along with our demands, and worship with our very lives.
God will be positioning people and families well outside their comfort zones in the coming church. There may be no children’s ministry, no live worship, no pastoral care, no programs, poor preaching, no friendships or any other supposed deficiencies. The transitional season we are moving into will result in radically disappointing church experiences—but we’ll know it’s not about us. It’s about partnering with God as he regains leadership in our lives and uses us in the deconstruction/reconstruction reformation in the church. Soldiers don’t choose their commanders, their assignments or their experiences. They show up, train and prepare for battle.
About 40,000 ready for war passed over before the LORD for battle, to the plains of Jericho. Joshua 4:13
It’s critical that every one of us look at today’s Western church and agree—it is radically, embarrassingly broken. We can’t have the thought that it’s doing pretty well, and that some adjustments will help. No way. Full force reformation is coming, and the future church won’t look anything like today’s.
Today’s church is soon to be no more.
What is a man born for but to be a reformer, a remaker of what has been made, a denouncer of lies, a restorer of truth and good?—Ralph Waldo Emerson
With reformers on the loose, we must not expect today’s model to remain.
If you expect hours of Spirit-driven intercession, then you have a correct expectation of what church should look like. You will do well. Think of a prayer meeting. That is church.
And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? Mark 11:17
And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. Luke 1:10
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:14
Other expectations may leave you frustrated when the future church minimizes or excludes entirely an emphasis on what you value.
The coming church will be so strange, unusual and illogical that the majority of today’s Christians will resist or even fully reject it.
If we expect something to be a part of the experience, and it’s not, offense and anger can follow. This is why it’s critical to be in the church that God leads you to. If this is your criteria, then you won’t be offended when the old wine skin disappears.
The coming church will be an end-time church unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and those who aren’t given to fervency in intercession will become end-time resistors, unwitting partners with Satan himself.
What’s Coming, What’s Going?
We need to respond to the challenge to begin moving away from the elements in the current church that will be either minimized or fully eradicated in the future church.
We can’t have a perfect understanding of what’s coming and what’s going, but for the sake of discussion, let’s consider the following. The sense is that what follows is accurate at least in part, though I humbly admit that it’s incomplete:
- Fire. The lukewarm will not last.
- A return to the cross. We will again embrace the truths that cause us to grieve and break under their weight.
- Holiness. God’s judgment will rest on the coming church.
- Military mindset. We will step up as soldiers, have a clear mission and will invest significantly in it.
- Night and day prayer. Literally every Christian will pray as their primary function in the church and this will occur corporately multiple times a week.
- Multiple weekly gatherings. The Sunday model will give way to continual gatherings for intense prayer and apostolic instruction.
- True worship. There will be a distinction between worship and encounter. Worship is costly and it will drive the church experience. Worship is us pouring out. Encounter is God pouring out.
- Groans. The peculiar church will arise with literal groans of intercession roaring out of it.
- Division. Jesus came to bring a sword. We will see him identify wheat and tares.
- Intercession for the nations. The focus will be on everybody praying intently and continually for cities and nations.
- Shorter services and longer services. Fluff and fillers will be removed which will result in shorter, intense services…that will often extend due to the power and life being experienced.
- Daily life will revolve around the corporate gathering. Everything else will give way to the call to gather by apostolic leaders.
- Extreme training. The coming church will be a training center—and it will push people to their limits.
- Apostolic leadership: The future church will be locked and loaded, ready to respond to bold apostolic leadership.
- Apostolic teaching. Truth will absolutely return to the church, and it will offend many.
- Upward focus. The demands of people will be replaced by the demands of God.
- Authentic Christians. It will become clear who is radically devoted to Christ to the death and who is looking for their needs to be met.
- Much smaller churches. The coming church will be so challenging and different that marginal or false Christians will leave en masse.
- A casual connection. Services will call for radical participation from everybody. We won’t have the option to sit back, disengage or hope to be entertained.
- Tepid atmospheres. Trembling, fear and fire will replace humanistic environments devoid of God’s presence.
- Artificial atmospheres. Human attempts at zealous, party atmospheres will give way to a genuine arrival of God’s presence.
- Inclusion. Everybody will be welcome, but only authentic followers of Jesus will remain in such a hard core, supernatural environment.
- Relevance. The future church will not attempt to match the culture it’s called to shock.
- Youth/single/age centric ministry. We will all be together experiencing the same God and growing at the same pace. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
- Karaoke worship. Today’s sing-a-longs will give way to supernatural groans of worship.
- Programs. The church will be known as a prayer meeting and this will take the place of myriads of affinity groups in the current church.
- Predictability. The future church won’t be comfortable and consistent. A prophetic edge will require everybody to constantly embrace and expect quick shifts and changes. Their life will have to be flexible enough to respond to this.
- Teaching centric services. Granted, there will be times when teaching will be front and center, but the coming church will be more prayer meeting than a monologue.
- Perpetual immaturity. The pressure will be constant to grow, and grow fast.
- Pastoral focus. The five-fold ministry will function as it was intended to, and the office of pastor will no longer be primary.
- Inward focus. Instead of people demanding shepherds attend to their desires and to intimately know their heart, shepherds will know God’s heart and instruct people from that place of revelation. (Jer 3:15)
- Sunday services. While we will still gather on Sundays, they will no longer be known as a special day set aside to God. Instead of gathering two hours a week on a Sunday, we will gather most every day of the week.
- Optional participation. The whole church will be called together, and the whole church will respond by attending, serving and advancing together.
- Dependency. The body will assume the responsibility to grow both independently and corporately.
- Seeker sensitivity. Seeker sensitive churches will either close, or thrive as illegitimate, socially focused, spiritually empty affinity groups.
- A focus on church growth. Yes, the true church will ultimately grow, but initially it will shrink as the bar is raised and the true remnant is revealed.
- A local mindset. Instead of going to church and enjoying a local experience, we will attend with cities and nations on our minds. Media will help impact regions well beyond our local reach.
- People-to-people focus. A focus on connecting people to people will remain but diminish as our energies are given to connecting people to God.
- A one-stop shop. Churches will become more focused instead of diverse.
There’s much more that could fit in either category. What do you think?
The pulse of my heart is simple—be ready to release almost everything that you presume is critical to the church experience, and allow yourself to go through a very challenging recalibration with God’s plans.