This article originally appeared in OutreachMagazine.com.
Paul exhorts believers, as they offer their bodies as living sacrifices, to not be conformed to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewal of their minds. This way, they will discern the will of God.
There is much to be said about, not to mention application to be had, from the truth contained in Romans 12:1–2. It could fill commentaries and books, which it has. One of the interesting takeaways from Romans 12 is that it proceeds a section of Paul’s letter where he noted his burning desire for Israel to know Christ. The salvation of God should naturally lead to the transformation of his people through a new (and renewed) understanding or way of thinking.
I often tell churches we do well by speaking of individual sanctification, but just as there is individual sanctification there is also a need for corporate sanctification. In other words, just as individuals need to continually be transformed, so do the corporate bodies called local churches.
I believe the 21st century, one in which is being defined as a post-everything world—post-modern, post-Christian, and [eventually] post-COVID—is challenging the church to be missionally transformed with a fresh perspective of mission, a new way of thinking with methods, and a renewed attitude of joy.
A Fresh Perspective of Mission
The church in the West has enjoyed homefield advantage for roughly 1700 years. In that time, mission has been somewhat easy. However, the loss of homefield advantage will mean that mission and advancement of the gospel will be harder. This is the fresh perspective of mission the church will need to have.
What was easy about the mission when the church enjoyed homefield advantage? For starters, if you think of it in terms of the progression of the great commission (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost parts of the earth) or Engel’s Scale of Evangelism, homefield advantage meant reaching a culture that is similar to a Christian worldview. That is no longer the case. Our culture has become more comprised of “Samaria” and the “uttermost parts of the world” or to put it in Engel’s language, they have “no effective (or defective) knowledge of Christianity.”
Now that we are the visiting team, we must understand that mission will not be easy as it once was. Mission will not be as microwavable—simple. Mission will not be as marketable—enticing through slick sermon series. Mission will not be as meteoric—rapid multiplication.
In short, churches will need to receive a fresh perspective of mission by seeing it as a long-term investment rather than a short-term turnaround.
A New Way of Thinking with Methods
From the Industrial Revolution to the now Digital (or Technological) Revolution our culture has adapted to the various methods (tools or technologies) that facilitate a company, machine, or person’s purpose. From combines to computers, from trains to planes, different methods have been created to facilitate one’s mission.
When it comes to the mission of God being carried and advanced by the vehicle of his “C”hurch, there are a variety of ways to share and show the gospel of King Jesus. I know some may disagree with this, and it might be because of a difference of defining what God’s mission is. I see God’s mission as redeeming a people for himself from all peoples on planet earth through faith in Christ Jesus. And the way God accomplishes his mission is through the church as they share and show the gospel of King Jesus in the power of the Spirit. The demonstration of the gospel is as comprehensive as the Fall. In other words, as the Fall effected every sphere of life, so too will the gospel.
Therefore, a new way of thinking (which is not so new with many) with methods for the church in the 21stcentury will be “spheric.” In addition to seeing the church building or the corporate worship gathering as the primary place of fulfilling God’s mission, churches will be thinking how they can equip and release individuals, offer corporate opportunities, and partner with (or create) institutions to engage all spheres within in the community.
By engaging the spiritual, social, and cultural spheres of the community in individual, corporate, and institutional ways, the church (over time) offers a vision of the Kingdom Jesus inaugurated and will one day consummate. This is a new way of thinking with the methods that facilitate the mission.
A Renewed Attitude of Joy
When ministry and mission get tough, they tend to suck the life and joy out of leaders. I’m sure like you, I’ve enjoyed those seasons in ministry where everything was going well. Mission seemed to be fruitful, ministry was flourishing, and the church was in sound fellowship. Such an environment naturally breeds joy. But disrupt any of those things and it is easy to succumb to frustration and discouragement.
The further we move into the 21st century we will learn that the soil is not as fertile—and will have to work even harder to tend to and cultivate the soil. We will also continue to see the shrinking of cultural Christianity (or nominalism)—and will, in many cases, experience a more sporadic attendance of the faithful. We will continue to experience the waning of honor bestowed on church leaders—and at the same time will continue to receive contentious displeasures from people in our fold.
Ministry, nor mission, will be for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, in the difficulty we must have a renewed attitude of joy—a joy that is experienced and expressed in all things. To do so, we must see mission and ministry the way Jesus saw the cross—“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Heb 12:2).
In closing, pastors and church leaders, we will need renewed thinking in a post-everything society. May we not be conformed to the patterns of this world or the old patterns of Christendom, but through the power of the Spirit may we be transformed through a mind that receives a fresh perspective of mission, revisions our methods to accomplish the mission, and renews an attitude of joy.