Few evangelical thinkers spend more time thinking about the big picture than Ed Stetzer. He recently wrote an article in which he identified several areas where churches should focus their energy in the next 10 years. I don’t disagree with anything on his list. I wonder if it should not also include, “Training the next generation of leaders.”
. . . I do think we are in challenging times. The last ten years have brought us to that reality. There have been a few distractions along the way. The emerging church came promising answers to evangelicals for a “third way,” but now is largely the avant-garde wing of (declining) mainline Protestantism. Some tried to withdraw from culture, but culture just kept coming. Some slowly replaced regular gospel proclamation with moralistic therapeutic deism– being good makes you a better person, and that makes “the man upstairs” happy. Still others were so driven by pragmatism that they eventually began to look like a collection of programs and strategies, devoid of the message of Jesus.
So, here are five things we need to face the next ten years:
1. A clear understanding of the gospel.
Too many have assumed it, but we need to teach it. The gospel is not you do, it’s Jesus did. People don’t need to be taught to turn over a new leaf– they need to receive and live out a new life. That new life is from Jesus’ death on the cross, for our sin and in our place. Don’t build a message that would still be true if Jesus had not died on the cross.
2. A stronger focus on discipleship.
God shapes congregations through the shaping of individual members’ lives. But this doesn’t just happen by accident or as a by-product– God grows us as we are in a position to receive that growth. This can only happen through intentional awareness and leadership on the part of both leaders and church members. In our Transformational Discipleship project, the largest statistical study of its kind, we found that discipleship was both lacking and simple– we just needed to remind people to live out who God has made us in Christ. . . .
Read the whole thing here.