Discipleship Tsunami 2017 to 2027

by Hilary Horn


By Tom Sine 

As we race into a future changing at WARP SPEED we need to invite the Spirit of God to ignite our imaginations to create whole new forms of LIFEMAKING, CHANGEMAKING and CHURCHMAKING to engage new challenges and opportunities of changing times.

We have, in earlier posts, celebrated the compassion and creativity of the millennial generation numbers of whom are creating new forms of changemaking enabling some churches to move from token handouts to creating social enterprises to empower their neighbors don’t need handouts.

As I stated in my last post this generation also recognizes climate change is real and poses a real threat to both God’s good creation and to our children and grandchildren. Many of them are in the front of the movement to restore God’s good creation. They are also challenging those of us in all generations to: Live Like We Give A Damn! Will you join them?

Since we live in a world changing at WARP SPEED we can no longer continue with business as usual in both our churches and our personal lives. Let’s take a hard look at one way we need to join those who are re-imagining how to be followers of the servant Jesus in a world of accelerating change.

In a recent post I explained that many mainline churches are facing a “DEATH TSUNAMI” because while their denominations are declining at a constant 2% to 5% a year that is not the complete story.

Not only mainline churches but a growing number of evangelical churches are facing a rapid die-off in aging congregations. Since the majority of members in many of these graying in congregations are comprised of us 50 to 90 year olds these churches are likely to experience an accelerated rate of decline.

Now we are also facing a PARTICIPATION TSUNAMI. Many readers over 40 can remember when regular church attendance was Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Today, “regular” church attendance is once or twice a month. Time to volunteer to help those in need is down, time for prayer is down. Per capita church giving which was 3.8% in 1968. to a new low In 2015 of 2.4%. While some congregations are still flourishing individual participation rates even of these churches are still declining.

The urgent question for all church leaders is “how long can participation levels and giving levels continue to decline before numbers of our churches begin to hemorrhage and lose their essential vitality?”

Of course one of the reasons for people’s declining levels of participation is because many of us are experiencing growing pressure of our rapidly changing world on our lives and families. I suspect another factor could also be a failure of discipleship education in a number of our churches to enable us and our fellow members to live our best lives.

I find that mainline churches offer courses, like many Catholic Churches, in spiritual formation. Evangelical churches usually seem to offer courses in personal discipleship. Is it possible while these courses certainly have value that too often we seem to be content if they simply help people limp through our week? Is it possible that too often we settle for less…not go for our best?

Is it possible that Christian educators could learn from life coaches, that corporate leaders hire, how to enable follower of Jesus to seriously up our game? Is it possible that we could learn how to create more compassionate, focused, disciplined and festive lives…in the way of Jesus?

Corporate leaders often have enormous responsibility and could never carry out their roles simply limping through their week. Wouldn’t creating discipleship courses that enables us to create more purpose focused disciplined whole life followers of Jesus Christ lives be a good idea?

I got some time with my friend Dan White Jr. At the recent Inhabit Conference here is Seattle. He shared how those in the V3 network are already addressing this urgent need through what are called “Curated Conversations.” Dan explained that in these conversations they help members of their churches to define a clear sense of purpose for their lives and create a rhythm where they have time to be present to God and care for neighbors as well a time for family and their work.

Dan stated these curated conversations also help members learn how to delight in God, create community, get to know their neighbors, develop personal disciplines and create a flourishing life.

Living in a world changing at WARP SPEED, where we are witnessing declining levels of participation in many our churches, wouldn’t it be good to create our own curated conversations? Wouldn’t it be good idea to raise the bar in our discipleship courses and enable one another seek to become whole life, disciplined followers of Jesus? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to discover the new ways God can use our mustard seeds to be a difference and make a difference…in times like these?

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