Humans are prone to struggling with change. It turns out churches are, too. It wasn't long ago that churches were invited to the table to participate in making decisions at the community, city, state and national levels. The church and the institutions central to it, such as marriage and family, were the backbone of life and society.
Today, however, things are different, and the role and identity of the church in our new, diverse and chaotic culture is no longer certain. The challenges and opportunities this reality presents were the focus of Gabe Lyons keynote address to WFX attendees on Wednesday, November 18. Lyons is the author of "The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live The Gospel and Restore the World" and founder of Q, a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.
He titled his keynote, "Release, Renewal and Restoration" and discussed how individuals and the church need to shift their thinking in order to relate to and influence our present-day culture. Here's a summary of the areas he covered:
As aforementioned, the world has changed. Our culture now has a relative, bendable view of what's right and wrong. Therefore, the rules for how the church engages with the world have changed, too. However, the church hasn't fully adapted to them. Lyons pointed out that as a result we as the church have learned to put up walls to shield ourselves and avoid interaction with the chaos. But instead, churches should release people into that chaotic world, first developing them so they know how to interact and participate in culture. "The church must be in the middle of the dynamics shaping our post-Christian world," he said.
Lyons went on to explain that one or two generations ago, because of the cultural context of nuclear war, non-believers wanted to know where they would go when they died, and Christians were at the ready to explain. Today, non-believers want to know how to live life. "Our Christian faith has the answer," said Lyons. But are we as Christians present and aware enough to share it?
Citing Matthew 28:19 (ISV) Lyons explained that after being released, our role as Christians is to disciple "as we go", meaning churches and individuals must use whatever they haveskills, facilities, relationshipsto become local, everyday disciples delivering the message of hope to all people. He emphasized that the work of discipleship does not rest solely on the pastor's shoulders either. "Church attenders are the ones to move forward the mission of God," he said.
He also shared the "7 Channels of Cultural Influence", a diagram that shows the church in relationship to the other culture channels of business, education, social sector, media, government, and arts and entertainment.
Lyons used the diagram to explain the opportunity and power every Christian has to be a change agent in our changing worldwhether they are teachers, civil servants, attorneys or work in the creative fields. As individual Christians, the channel we find ourselves in is a channel we can influence by living out and sharing our faith.
Finally, Lyons discussed how the church can restore itself and cement its role and identity in this new chaotic culturenot by attempting to recreate the past, but by serving in and meeting the needs of communities. "How can the church support people as they learn to live in difficult circumstances?" he asked.
The answer is multifaceted yet simple and revolves around equipping people to love and serve and be the church throughout their whole lives, not just on Sunday mornings. "Church is all week long, and it's all of us," said Lyons.
Learn more about Gabe Lyons and Q at www.qideas.org.