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Yesterday’s Church of Tomorrow


Maybe churches can learn something from airports.

Some time ago, Joan and I were rushing to our gate at the Pittsburgh airport when I caught a glimpse of a sign that aroused my curiosity. As it turned out our flight was delayed so I retraced my steps to take a second look.

Yep, that’s what I thought I saw: “Visit our yesterday’s airport of tomorrow display in the transit level lobby”.

Cleverly worded. Attention grabbing. But more, there is an important principle that also applies to churches. The past and the future are connected.

3 interrelated systems

From my strategic foresight studies I learned that futurists view the past, present, and future as interdependent systems. You can’t break them apart as if one is unaffected by the others.

Good organizations use the best ideas from their past as a foundation for building an exciting future.

We gain hindsight from interpreting the past, foresight from anticipating the future, and insight for the present from the intersection of hindsight and foresight.

Indestructible yet uncontainable

The church will never cease to exist…Jesus made that clear! However, expressions of the church have changed dramatically over multiple centuries and cultures. And that will continue to happen.

Jesus’ message continues to be like new, still fermenting wine that can only be contained in new, expandable wineskins.

Organizational systems and structures are like wineskins that lose their flexibility – and therefore, value – with age. Old ways of doing church need to be replaced with new ones.

What will the future church look like?

Here is one example of how the basic elements of the church can remain intact while other elements adapt to a changing environment.

Hindsight: the Church has historically been at its finest and grown fastest when under pressure. The fire of persecution has a way of purifying motivations and bringing out the best.

Foresight: the current trend of attempting to cast Christian influence as toxic to society is likely to continue and escalate.

Insight: the church has an opportunity to be more giving and forgiving, less angry, more innovative, and to work in partnership with others to develop new and better ways of serving people and communities.

Question: what opportunity for change do you see for the church of today?

Please join in the conversation and pass this along to anyone else you think might be interested.

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