Wednesday, September 12

21st Century Churches

I first saw Dave Black's description of a Twenty-First Century Church on Alan Knox's blog. Here is Dave's description:

What, then, might the renewed church of the twenty-first century look like?
  • It will be a serving church.
  • Its organizational structure will be simple, unencumbered by bureaucrats and bureaucracies.
  • Its financial priorities will reflect a commitment to missions, local and global.
  • Capital expenditures will be reduced and the savings earmarked for discipleship.
  • Jobs that are currently salaried positions will be filled by volunteer help or eliminated.
  • Denominations will make drastic reductions in funds spent on publications that are a waste of the church’s money (bulletins, Sunday School quarterlies – the Bible will be used instead – and glossy magazines).
  • Church buildings will be used for primary and secondary Christian education.
  • Believers will gladly work transdenominationally and cooperatively, especially at the local level.
  • The church will proclaim the Good News of the Gospel as its first priority while not neglecting the cultural mandate.
  • A full-fledged lay ministry will replace clericalism.
  • Individual believers will be expected to assume specialized ministries according to their giftedness.
  • Churches will provide regular lay training (with the seminaries assisting them) and build voluntary programs of education into their structures.
  • Worship will no longer be confined to a single time or place.
  • Preoccupation with church buildings will be seen for what it is – idolatry.
  • The church will no longer cling to its prerogatives but take the form of a servant.
  • It will refuse any longer to shun the secular.
  • Trained pastors will become humble assistants to the “ministers” – every member.
  • In this renewed church we will encounter disciples who take the going forth as seriously as they do the gathering.
  • New members will be asked to specify a regular community involvement (neighborhood council, PTA, volunteer library staff, nursing home visitation, etc.) in addition to their commitment to a ministry in the church.
Any comments on any of the above? Do you see your church moving in these directions, or are you convinced that the current way we do church is adequate?


Gary Snowden said...


It looks like folks are slow to comment on this take on the 21st Century church. I've read and re-read the list several times, and the one that keeps jumping out at in me a not-so-positive way is the assessment that church buildings will be used for primary and secondary Christian education. While I would never denigrate those who choose to put their children into Christian schools or opt to homeschool (both of which we've done at different stages in raising our 4 boys), I've become more and more convinced that the anti-public school movement that continues to rear its head year after year in the SBC represents a retreat into a fortress-type mentality rather than a commitment to meaningfully engage the culture with a Christian presence.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. One thing we have advocated locally in regards to existing church buildings is that they should be used in some way during the week: be that a school, a feeding program, a day-care, a clinic, etc. The idea being that we be better stewards of the resources entrusted. A building used only 3-4 hours per week for church services doesn't seem to be the best way to utilize what we have.

GuyMuse said...

P.S. Gary,with all your interest on Baptist history, confessions, etc. what is your take on my previous post of the London confession 1644? I know some of these issues have been big ones for you and your family. What is your feeling about the 1644 vs. BF&M2000?

Tim Patterson said...


As I was reading the list, John Lennon's "Imagine" was playing in my head ;^)

I think this list applies to most new church plants or transitioning U.S. churches... and not to churches that are continuing with the status quo, have plateaued, or in decline. I also think that much of the list is a "wish list" and not likely to happen until the Lord returns. Aside from the idealistic items on the list, I do recognize some general trends for U.S. churches that are transitioning, or are newly planted and engaging their culture...

1. Community service and integration... Many new or transitioning churches are moving away from all activity revolving around the church building and moving out into the community. They are doing this by serving public schools, government agencies and non-profits "with no strings attached" simple acts of service. There is no expectation of anything in return. This is building good will with the lost and creating a "missional" DNA in the church. Some churches are even creating "neutral spaces" to engage people that will never step foot in a church building(ex. - coffee houses, community centers, shopping malls). Also, these same churches are moving away from on campus Bible Studies (Sunday School) to small groups meeting in homes. "Christian schools" are not necessarily part of the trend... missional churches have their kids in the public schools and are very involved with those schools to influence the culture. They are anti-isolationist and pro-integrational in relationship with the world, but at the same time do not compromise biblical truth.

2. Diminishing role of denominational institutions and priority for missions... the newer missional churches are hands-on involved and do nothing by proxy. They are not "pay and stay out of the way" churches. They are aggressively redirecting their financial resources toward missions where they are personally investing in building relationships. They are sending less to denominational and/or traditional missionary agencies. Missionary strategy is up for grabs... but it better involve some type of humanitarian service or relationship intensive activity if one wants to partner with this type of church. They are building their own relational networks instead of relying on established bureaucratic institutions. There is very little denominational loyalty and more openess to partnerships that cross denominational lines.

3. "Lay" leaders are the driving force in missional churches... The churches are still staff led from within, but "lay" leaders are the ones that make or break projects outside church walls. Nothing happens without their passionate leadership. If the paid staff are smart, they do all they can to "fan the flame" and stay out of the way.

4. Simple church structure... The traditional denominational programs are cut away for more selective activity. Less is more. A process is developed and implemented to engage people in three areas: relationship with God, relationship with others, and relationship with the world... for the purpose of accomplishing God's mission. Everything is organized to help people obey God in each of these areas. Extra layers of activity are eliminated for only the essential activities that will move people closer to God's agenda in these areas.

GuyMuse said...


Some excellent observations. Thanks for taking the time to express these thoughts.

#1. Gary Snowden above also expressed the same inquietud about missional kids being part of public schools in order to influence, rather than pulling out into church schools. Here, though, most churches with schools use them as outreach to families. Most of those attending the "church schools" are not-yet-believers. Through Christian education and values they are reaching families for Christ. I understand the concern about fleeing the world so as not to contaminate ourselves, but the other side of the same coin is that many families want quality education that church schools offer. This is an excellent way to involve church in the community and use church buildings in a much more responsible way.

#2. You, Ken, and myself have been speaking a lot on this subject. I think the IMB is understanding this trend and are seeking to implement strategies that address these proactive missional churches.

#3. "Fan the flame" and stay out of the way is a good way of putting it! I too see this being more and more a trend. Those churches who understand that all believers are ministers and seek to facilitate their ministries will make a huge impact upon their communities and the world.

#4. Thom Rainer's "Simple Church" book also mentions these three relationships: with God, with others, and with the world as the basis of sturcturing all that happens within church life. While I didn't agree with everything in this book, it still had a lot of good things to say that I have found helpful.

Burkhalter Ministry said...

I take it that Black is referencing the American church in his article? I'm not sure if the description Black gives is accurately reflecting the church all across the world. I wonder if anyone has done a study on how many churches actually have a building? I venture to say that the majority of churches in the world have no building at all, although I could be wrong. Anyways, I like a lot of his points and hope that many of these come true. All in all, it is not our church anyways, right...?

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by. Wolfgang Simson had a paper out several years ago that asserted that there were as many believers worldwide who meet in simple/house/organic as believers who met in church buildings. It was a number in the hundreds of millions. So yes, I think Black is talking mainly about North American churches.