Are You Worried about the Future of Church

Jeff Hook

Are You Worried about the Future of Church

Jeff Hook

Post-COVID, with many churches not seeing people return to regular church attendance, there is a great deal of talk about the future of church. The fact is, regular church attendance has been going down for quite some time, it’s just that the pandemic upset people’s habits so much so that it accelerated the loss of this Sunday morning ritual. Some believe it is a sign of people not being as religious these days; others tout the fact that more people have weekend jobs that takes them away for work, and still, others talk about millennials avoiding church because of the church rejecting their friends who lead different lifestyles that are not as traditional or considered “overtly sinful.” Certainly, all of these are contributing factors.

Whatever the reasons people no longer go to church, the question remains, “how do we get them back in church?”

Or is that the right question? Maybe the right question is “how can we serve them where they are?” For many years now, faith industry pundits have been stressing that the church needs to become more missional. In such a post-Christian world, that also means going to where the people are. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you view it, people are spending a great deal of time on the Internet.

People now live in two worlds: one physical, the other one digital.

With the advent of the Internet, the personal smartphone, rapid communication, and high-speed video delivery coupled with apps, nearly everyone has access to an endless number of resources at the tips of their fingers. On average, people spend over 3 hours per day on the Internet, or nearly 20% of their waking hours; with a majority of that being on their mobile phones. But little of that time is spent engaging through technology provided through their church.

Digital transformation in church is about the congregant, their relationships, their journey, not about the technology.

Pastors are correct when they say that “digital church” is not near as good as physically being there. However, is digital church better than no church at all? And digital church should not be seen as simply watching a live stream of the Sunday service. Digital church should also be about a more encompassing church experience that includes connecting with others about The Word throughout the entire week. It is about having ready access to digital resources that are made available by the church for when people are dealing with all kinds of life issues when they are in the heat of the challenge, not when the pastor decides to preach about that topic again the next time.

The mission of the church, making disciples and disciple-makers, can be improved through the adoption of better information technology.

If you look at many churches, the primary focus has been placed almost entirely on the Sunday Service. Many times, the Sunday Service is very seeker-sensitive, presenting the gospel, helping people understand that they have a partner, Christ, to help them through this life. But with technology, we can deliver so much more. As an example, churches could deliver a marriage class targeted for newlyweds for those contemplating matrimony, and at the same time, provide to different couples an on-demand marriage class specifically for couples who are taking the plunge for the second time with kids from previous marriages helping them deal with the unique challenges they have and will face. And then again, a marriage class for soon-to-be empty nesters could be held virtually for those who are about to have a very quiet house. We at Communitas call this personalized ministry.

Life transformation not only takes knowledge about who God is; it also requires a person to better understand who God made them to be.

With personalized ministry, people can begin to understand who they are based on their current circumstances and their past, and also better understand the person God meant them to be and how to find this identity in Christ. This can give them long-term satisfaction in life that is infectious and encourages others to overcome their own situations.

It is past time for churches to fully embrace digital technology to better minister to people where they live.

Churches have dabbled in information technology here and there out of necessity. But when it comes to using information, data, and systems, they have trailed the adoption of life-changing technology because church leadership chooses to not try to understand the benefits of capturing better information that can be leveraged to help people better understand how to live a better life. And frankly, that is what the Lord wants – “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. Now is the time to go all in to use digital resources to build the Church of the Future.

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