A space for telling stories about the church and the people who gather here.
Thinking about the Future Church
(An excerpt from John's sermon Prodigal Church.)
In the late 1800’s, architects saw that cities were quickly becoming crowded and growing fast. As industrial work increased, people and buildings were springing up all over the place – and the demand was multiplying.
They had a problem. The function of buildings – for housing, for business, for virtually every purpose – was desperately needed still, but they were literally running out of room. The form that buildings had always taken, the way buildings were almost always made, was no longer meeting the needs of the people, they were no longer connecting to these new conditions.
And that’s how we got skyscrapers. The architects found a way to build structures upward instead of outward. Problem solved. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.
In modern architecture, this style of innovation came to be known as this principle: form follows function. This means function first, then the form. Start with the function, and then figure out the form that best allows you to fulfill the function. The function of buildings has never changed, but their form sure has.
Even though we are always working to do it better, the function of the church is to be the vehicle of God’s love in the world, and God’s radical love is needed more than ever right now. But I think our form as the church is in desperate need of innovation, if we are going fulfill our function to the best of our potential.
How might we begin to transform how we do church together…in a way that allows us to live further into our function of being God’s vehicle for love in this world? What kind of form should follow our function in today’s context? What needs to change?
I invite you to give some thought to those questions. I’ll post them on our Facebook page for you to respond, or you can email me, or better yet, let’s get coffee or lunch together and talk. I do enough talking. I want to listen to you.
The reality is that I’m searching for answers to these questions, too, but I do have some ideas. Here are some of them:
1) I think the next form of the church will be less fixated on meeting just Sunday mornings. 2) I think the next form of the church will see sharing food and hospitality as an act that is integrated into worship. 3) The next form of the church will use their buildings to serve the community, not just the church. 4) The next form of the church will prioritize a yearly covenant over membership rolls and the gifts of people as much as pastors. 5) I think the next form of the church will be unashamed of the gospel and unashamed of the truth that the gospel calls us to seek justice, peace, and reconciliation and live in solidarity with the poor. 6) I think the next form of the church will be known for what it stands for, not whatever it stands against. 7) I think the next form of the church will look less like a modern institution and more like the early church…who gathered to eat together, share resources, and worship God wherever and whenever they could.
Like the first Anabaptists who sought to recover the radical wisdom and way of the early church in their 16th century context, perhaps we need to do the same for our 21st century world. While the architects who created skyscrapers innovated forwards, the church may need to innovate backward in order to innovate forward; getting back to our roots in order to grow upward and be refreshed for a brand-new world.