As our society continues its rapid ascent into the digital age, the dynamic of personal interaction, communication, and how people live is being transformed.
Rather than gradual shifts, change is ever-present and immediate.
Rather than trends that stretch and retract like a rubber band, the digital age is redefining life and establishing a new standard of normal.
Shifts and trends in society have always impacted the Christian church. The challenge is adapting to these changes while preserving the doctrines of the church.
Another challenge is adapting strategies to meet these trends and how it effects a pastor’s role.
It has changed and shifted in the past one hundred years.
Over a hundred years ago, immigrants from Europe poured into America. They quickly looked for places to gather and worship. Churches were built and worship times were posted. The pastor gathered his flock together and outreach efforts to reach the lost were largely unnecessary for most protestant congregations.
During the last quarter of the 20th century, fewer families were flooding the church. Denominational loyalty was starting to waver. Huge mega-churches were built to reach this segment of Christians and seekers. Many churches ended up like family-owned stores. They had a difficult time competing with the new Wal-marts in their community. The mega-churches offered everything. Pastors were looked upon as a manager to organize, energize, and draw people to gain new members. They were like small business owners who were forced to wear many hats. The proclamation of the gospel was looked upon as the pastor’s responsibility.
Times have drastically changed since we entered the 21st century. With the advent of simpler and smaller, start-up businesses are emerging to establish niches and brands. People today are looking for community, purpose, and connection. There is an abundance of unmet needs and entrepreneurial start up and non-profits are thriving when those needs are addressed in a meaningful way. These trends are affecting how churches carry out ministry.
People are not necessarily going to large mega-churches to receive a weekly dose of energetic music, inspiring messages, or get lost in the crowd. There will always be a segment of consumer Christians who are looking for that. Walmart is not going away and neither are mega churches.
In response to this changing dynamic in our society, churches can take a “start-up” mentality and apply it to their outreach efforts. Instead of trying to compete with other churches by offering a myriad of programming, congregations can go out into the community and start meeting spiritual needs. People are looking for meaningful connection, community, and purpose. They are willing to pay for it by investing themselves into something that is bigger than themselves. No matter how big or small, churches can fill a niche in their community that few churches are filling right now.
Today’s strategies are centering upon the message of the cross and the willingness upon members to deliver it.
This trend will affect the pastor’s role in evangelism and outreach efforts.
Instead of trying to wear many hats and do everything themselves (pastor manager), they can focus their energy on equipping members to carry out gospel activity. This requires training members to confidently and boldly live out their faith by connecting with people in the community and provide reasons for the hope they have in Christ.
Here are seven short thoughts on how to help equip members:
Help convince members that people are seeking Truth in their community despite their outward appearances. There is no need to despair. Instead, we can be encouraged.
Understand that many people today are rejecting the church not the Truth. Their understanding of Truth is based on misperceptions rather than what the Bible teaches.
Encourage members to go into their world by bringing the Word themselves. Since personal evangelism is frightening and intimidation for most members, pastor-equippers need to provide specific training outside of preaching and teaching.
Allow members the Christian freedom to take ownership in gospel activity. Let’s be honest. This is unsettling for pastors. To be a pastor-equipper means stepping away from managing details while still providing scriptural oversight.
If the pastor finds themselves as the only person doing the proclaiming in the community, then its time to stop. Pastor equippers constantly re-evaluate methodologies, approaches, and training techniques.
Let go of friendship evangelism strategies that centers only on inviting people to church on Sunday morning. Instead, pastor equippers devote strategies that equips members to be prepared to give the reasons for the hope they have in Christ.
Pastor equippers help create narratives for members to bring the Good News to others. This includes learning how to begin a conversation with those who are lost.
With plummeting interest in going to church and memberships in decline, it can be a discouraging time for Christian churches. But I believe Jesus is right. The harvest is plentiful right now, yet the workers are few.
The church will always be a gathering place for believers – as it was intended to be. But it can also be a training center or a launching pad to take the gospel message to the people.
It’s an ancient evangelism strategy that is especially applicable for today.