Church trends come in two flavors: methods and message. The methods should change with the culture; the message should sharpen with time.
It’s easy to spot method trends. Our ways of reaching people are becoming more high-tech and more high-touch. You can see it anywhere and everywhere in the church. It’s no secret that Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Instagram and (you fill in the blank) are new techie ways ministries use to connect with people. Information and spiritual encouragement are flowing at breathtaking speed between ministries and their followers.
We are also doing more to facilitate relationship building through small groups, support groups and any other group that promotes sitting in a circle facing other people trying to make sense of faith in our modern world. “Circles work better than lines” is the new mantra.
Spotting message trends, however, is a little trickier.
Message trends are less observable but more significant than method trends. I am assuming my readers are evangelicals adhering to orthodox views of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But even within that framework, one church may have a slightly different focus than another.
The trend that most catches my attention today is the one that clarifies the Good News of Jesus by making a clear distinction between behavior and belief. It goes beyond the virtues/values emphasis of behavior modification and brings relationship with Jesus into real life. It understands that behavior is a fruit that grows from relationship with Jesus. It clarifies the difference between what we do for God and what God has done for us.
It embraces the reality that ministry is messy. People who come to Jesus are in shambles. Their lives are tangled with destructive patterns. They have addictions. Their marriages are broken. Their kids are estranged. Their finances are in ruins. Their emotions are confused. Nothing (as in nothing) is easy about ministry today. People are broken. This forces churches to clarify what is essential. Many have reached the simple conclusion that God’s love as expressed in Jesus is the only force that can cut through the chaos.
In today’s disruptive world people don’t need better methods as much as they need a clearer message. They need a clear picture of God’s love that reaches down into the mess where they live. They need to grasp the reality that faith in Jesus opens the door to God’s love in spite of their failures, hurt and disillusionment. They need the church to be a loving culture that lavishes them with acceptance in ways that go beyond a handshake from the greeter.
I see this trending.