Christianity has enjoyed ubiquitous control over Western society and culture for thousands of years. But this control is falling apart.
So as Mennonites, what will we need to change in order to not only survive, but thrive, in the future? In many ways, we Mennonites have been a marginal church for our entire history, so the idea of being faithful on the margins of society is not particularly earth-shaking. However, this doesn’t mean we won’t be affected by the breakdown of Christendom.
I offer four suggestions to start the conversation — leave a comment below to share your thoughts.
- Become a pilgrim people once again. For hundreds of years, Mennonites have periodically moved from place to place, unattached to any particular government. However, many Mennonites see themselves as Americans first and take an ownership of the U.S. that is unhealthy. We are called to have an impact on the world around us no matter where we live, but our role as Christians is not to be the dominant controllers of any particular nation. Letting go of our ownership of this society will be important.
- Hold our buildings lightly. Most of our church buildings are built for the church of the past rather than the church of the future. The church I work at has lots of space, but most of it is unsuitable for the type of programs that we now have. In some cases, we may need to release our buildings as the church changes and grows. Buildings are important, but they need to be in service of the mission of God, not the other way around.
- Become better sociologists. For hundreds of years, the only people who needed to understand a foreign culture were mission workers. We used to assume everyone was like us. As Christians move to a marginal place in society, we are finding ourselves in an increasingly foreign culture. We need to improve our skills of cultural assessment and translation if we hope to live out the mission of God in our own neighborhoods.
- Become unique yet open. Jesus called us to be salt and light — things that are important because they are unique. However, unless these traits are applied to their surroundings, they are worthless. The church in the future will become more refined, unique and different than the rest of the world. However, the church will also need to remain open and engaged with the world.
I can’t present a precise description of what the church of the future will look like. But that’s just the point. The church of the future will be diverse and radically different in each location. There will be some traditional churches, but there will also be new forms of church as well. Thriving in the future will require reclaiming some core parts of our tradition as well as embracing what is to come.
Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.