Where will you be in 10 years? in 20 years? If you're involved
in a church, it may look quite different from what you're
accustomed to today.
The church in America is currently shuddering under
unprecedented societal change. Some churches are shuttering-closing
their doors, rather than adapting to the swirling changes around
us. But some are breaking through and finding fresh ways to share
the ageless message of Christ with a still-spiritually-open
Some of the innovation we see today was actually predicted over
10 years ago. At that time a think tank of ministry leaders from
across the country met to envision the future. They accurately
foresaw some changes we now see emerging.
For example, whereas the modern church looks and feels much like
a theatrical presentation, the think tankers saw a church that
would begin to look and feel more like a neighborhood place to
gather around food and drink.
That model is sprouting up in divergent locations across the
country-and outside the country.
Star Church in Middleville, Michigan, worships in
a former auto parts store that now looks like a homey little
restaurant. "We have a DNA of worshipping around tables," says
pastor Bill Wynsma. The church's website describes the vibe:
"Remember those signs in some churches that say, 'No Food or Drink
in the Sanctuary'? Well, we welcome you to enjoy coffee, tea and
other morning beverages along with a selection of snacks."
And, more than 150 churches across the country and Canada have
joined the growing network of Lifetree
Cafes. I'm blessed to work with this new ministry
that's designed to reach into the community with a conversion-based
experience. Members of the community gather around small tables and
enjoy snacks and drinks while they delve into host-led explorations
of life issues-with a spiritual twist. Some Lifetree locations are
inside church facilities. Others are offered in local coffee shops
and community centers.
Whitsunday Baptist Church in Queensland,
Australia, offers a beachfront café experience every Tuesday
night. Soul Church
Caféprovides "coffee, dessert, and a chat about some of the
more important things in life." The ministry offers
"conversation, friendship, and a little bit of what you are looking
In Communist China, where churches are highly restricted,
Christian restaurateurs opened the Upper Room Rainbow
Café in Beijing. Biblically themed décor
surrounds the tables where patrons munch on cleverly named entrees.
(On a recent visit, I tried the "Five Loaves and Two Fish." Tasty!)
Curious Chinese residents gather here for Bible studies, Christian
music and even sermons. "We consider it a dinner show," says the
savvy owner, who stays legal and in good favor with the
So, why are these food-and-drink venues working? If we say faith
is a relationship, it makes sense that our expressions of faith
look relational. Sitting around a table, eating, and talking with
friends about matters of faith is a relational model that Jesus
used very fruitfully. And the conversational aspect allows people
to interact with the message, something that resonates well with
today's interactive citizens.
As we watch this trend build throughout today's church, where
will it lead tomorrow? What will the church look like in 10 or 20
years? It's an important question. The better we can anticipate the
coming changes, the better prepared we'll be to take the unchanging
message to the changing world.
We're organizing a new think tank to analyze developing trends
and explore how they'll drive change for the church in the future.
This special gathering will include generations authority
Neil Howe, and church researcher
Scott Thumma. The
Future of the Church Summit is October 22-24, 2012, in
Loveland, Colorado. It's an invitation-only event for church
leaders, thinkers and influencers. If you know someone who should
receive an invitation, please email me at email@example.com.
It's a healthy thing to read the signs and adjust: "You
know the saying, 'Red sky at night means fair weather
tomorrow; red sky in the
morning means foul weather all day.' You know how to interpret the
weather signs in the sky, but you don't know how to interpret the
signs of the times!" -Jesus
What do you see coming?