Diagnosis

North America is increasingly going to look like a mission field. (1) The narrative, formative rituals, virtues, and convictions of Christians will become less and less familiar to more and more North Americans. (2) The strategies of church growth that have driven church planning for the past 50 years will see declining effectiveness in the near future. They have, in fact, already started to see this decline. Church growth strategies assumed that full-formed Christians were looking for the best vendors of religious life and churches could effectively attract these potential clients through worship style upgrades and life-style appealing programming. As churches move into the future, we will discover that (a) we lack the resources for excelling with this approach to ministry; (b) the pool of fully-formed Christians is growing ever smaller (see #1). (3) Responding to this changing reality should not be motivated by the desire for organizational survival but must be motivated by a commitment to the Gospel. In short, we must be obedient even unto death. If we seek to hold onto our way of lives—the existing patterns of practicing faith—we will loose them. If we willingly relinquish our way of lives in preference for another way of life we feel is discerned as God’s call, led by the Holy Spirit, in conformity to Christ, we will find our lives.