I've been dreaming a bit lately. Dreaming about rain. Pondering what it will mean if we don't get any. But, I have also been doing some optimistic dreaming about the church. Lynn and I have done a lot of talking and thinking about the future of the church but have had difficulty getting a clear picture of the practicalities of new ways of being church. Lately things have started coming together a bit in my mind and I thought I would share these ideas here. Not that I think I am right or have all the answers but so that others can critique these ideas, share their own ideas, and the future church might be formed by such conversations. So, here are some of the ideas floating around in my head lately.
For me it is crucial for church to be focused on service. We've talked about the importance of flexibility in the church. We know that a large portion of church budgets are directed toward maintaining the building. I have heard a bit lately about church without walls or mobile church. So, I have been dreaming about gathering each week at a different location in order to engage in service. We might gather one week at a Habitat Home and help with construction breaking at some point for a worship service. We might gather another week at The Reuse It Center (a local organization that sells left over building materials, used appliances and such with the money going to charity) and sort bolts, wash windows and such while engaging in worship together. Another week might be at a nursing home, a homeless shelter, an animal shelter, the site of a disaster, going wherever we can help and finding ways to worship within the context of our service.
This would require flexibility and creativity. Not everyone is physically able to do every kind of service work. We would need to be creative in finding work for everyone at every site. It might require a new frame of mind. Growth would not be the goal. Few places could handle a hundred volunteers descending upon them at once. We would have to do good work in a respectful manner. We would be asking these organizations to share their hospitality with us. It would be important to work hard and not attempt to push our beliefs on anyone so that people would want us to come.
Whatever the future church looks like it is important to realize it might not appeal right away to those who are already in church. Those who are already there, are there because they get something out of traditional, institutional church (minus a few malcontents like me). It is those who have left church or who have never been a part of the church who might be drawn to something different. Somehow this conversation needs to reach those people. I am not sure how to do this. I am pretty sure talking about tradition, the way we have always done things, the irresponsibility and lack of commitment of those who don't come to church, rejecting questioning, and so on are not it.
What are your ideas or dreams for the future church? How do you think we could invite those outside of the church into this conversation?