What’s Next? Talking about the Future of the Church

December 28, 2021

Last night we were honored to welcome the Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka to Preston Hollow as a part of our semi-annual speaker series. Rodger is Senior Associate Pastor and Pastor of Adult Educational Ministries at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Rodger engaged us with intelligence, imagination, and humor about the church in the twenty-first century. Below are a few highlights from his talk. We encourage you to watch the full presentation.

You will not want to miss out!

What is the number one reason that people join churches? Warmth.

People are drawn to church community for good preaching and music, vibrant children and youth ministry, convivence, and a sense of belonging. But if a congregation is not warm, none of those other things matter. What is more, is that one very specific thing has to happen for congregations to be deemed warm: someone has to talk to them.

It can be a greeter but not necessarily, if it is authentic.

It can happen during passing of the peace, if it is genuine.

According to systems theory, a critical mass of people has the ability to affect (infect) a larger group. Kindness and warmth are contagious, so be warm.

Why are mainline churches in decline? (Pew Survey on Religious Life)

One of the major reasons for the decline of mainline church (Presbyterian) is largely due to birthrate. We are aging and not adding people. The more educated you are, the less children you have. Presbyterians are the 3rd most highly educated in the Christian family.

We are also still a very, very white denomination. Our monolithic make-up in terms of race, also hurts us in this regard.

The 21st century Church needs to think about the Gospel in three words:

Living, Dying, Rising

Living: The things we do to keep going. They may not be glamorous or novel but they are necessary (at least for now) to keep going.

Dying: Practices, rituals, programs where life is ebbing or there is no life. We may still be doing them but their time has passed or come to an end.

The church has a hard time with death—especially of ministry. We don’t want to stop doing things. Even though central to the gospel of Jesus Christ is that Christ died. Without dying, there is no possibility of resurrection.

Rising: Those things that are new and fresh. Those things that are emerging. And we must be clear that resurrection is not resuscitation. What are the things are rising among us?

Six things that are rising and worthy of our attention:

1. Shift from tribal education to immigrant education. The number of people who do not know us, are growing. We must watch everything that we do, all that we assume, never taking for granted that people know or understand our language, our practices, our culture. We must be outward-seeker focused, teach people, and not assume that people know.

2. From mission out there to mission right here. If all we do is mission far away, and don’t have an impact on the place where we are planted, there is a suspicion about how committed are actually are to actually transforming the world.

3. From reasoned spirituality to mystery-filled spiritually. Awe and wonder and mystery are hugely attractive right now. People are looking for ways to discover awe and wonder and mystery. There is a shift form reason to mystery, awe, and wonder.

4.  From high tech to high touch. With the rise of high tech comes the longing for high-touch. Suddenly, people are attracted to personal touches and human connection.

5. From attractional to invitational ministry. We have long thought that if we have the right programs and ministries people will be attracted to us. It is the, “If you build it, they will come” idea. This no longer works.  We can no longer make announcements expect that people will show up. Ministry must be invitational.

6. From discipleship to apostleship. The twentieth century church was where we created discipleship opportunities and people came to us. Instead the twenty-first century church is an apostle church where people are sent out as those who are participating in the mission of God.

Rodger closed with some deeply good news:

“This is the church of Jesus Christ, so I am not worried about the future. We will be this church until God decides that we will no longer be. And at that point, I believe that God will still hold us in God’s hands.

We are in a time of momentous change. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing. Perhaps we are being marginalized from our place of power so that we can abide with those who have been on the margins their whole lives. And perhaps that is exactly where Jesus dwells.”


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