by Rick Chromey
Spring has truly sprung. Everywhere you look, trees bud, grass greens, and birds nest. As the days warm, there’s the promise of better days ahead. The dark, cold winter is history.
Spring is about hope, change, and new life.
But change isn’t easy. Change has the power to hurt, halt, and humble. Change also redirects, reorients, and replaces. As I write this, I’m moving to a new city, and I have both fears and hopes. I know the move is right. I also know it’ll cost me money and time I don’t feel I have. And I’ll have to adjust to life in a new place.
Nevertheless, when the vision for change is stronger than the present reality, change (even if it hurts momentarily) is always welcomed.
That’s why we can’t get too comfortable. Change is going to happen. Culture is always evolving. Churches must relevantly interact with their culture or become obsolete. In fact, every church building has a date of origination that communicates hidden messages to its community. A building advertises values and vision. It reveals priorities, prejudices, and promises. A facility is the face…the first thing a visitor sees of physical importance.
Have you noticed how the steeple has gone the way of the stegosaurus? At one time steeples were the first physical things people saw from afar, announcing a church was ahead. Church bells marked the time, announced services, celebrated special events, and even warned the community of danger. Today steeples and bells are irrelevant. Change happens.
The question isn’t why things change, but will you?
Currently the church faces the greatest cultural shift since the Renaissance. We’ve become pretty comfortable in our Gutenberg and clock culture (two inventions that revolutionized modern culture). We like our time and space. In fact, we’ve largely defined church as time and space. We say we “went to church” (translation: We attended a certain space at a particular time).
But as with spring, new cultural buds are blossoming, and spiritual breezes are blowing. In the past quarter-century, a whole new cyber, digital, postmodern world has emerged that’s spelling change to all institutions, organizations, and communities.
What does it mean?
- Worship will likely move from a “service” to an “experience.” Postmoderns thrive on sensory situations and embrace spiritual spaces that make them feel closer to God. If your church services are “sit and soak,” then you’re on a death march to irrelevance.
- Preaching will likely become more interactive and brief. Postmoderns process information visually, and that means the monologue is history…at least long sermons. Think YouTube and Twitter. Or Sight Bites. Messages must create friendships. Pastors must move from me to we and design messages that get people talking with each other. Read more about this evolution of preaching styles in my book, ‘Sermons Reimagined.’
- Churches will likely become spiritual health centers. Some futurists predict that by 2020 most people won’t attend a church. In fact, many former church buildings are already now coffee shops, homes, and bars. The frame exists, but the purpose has been reimagined. Tomorrow’s church will likely be a 24/7/365 spiritual health center. We need to repurpose our facilities away from performances and events and toward opportunities to stretch spiritual muscles.
Our culture has changed, and, like a bear in spring, the church needs to emerge from its winter slumber to embrace and enjoy a new world. Not everyone will like the changes. We’ll no doubt fail as we find our legs in this new world.
Nevertheless, spring is a season of hope, change, and new life.
I believe tomorrow’s church will thrive, but only when we reimagine our methods and messages within experiential, interactive, and visual ways.