This article was originally published on marathonyouthministry.com.
The world we grew up in is not the same as it once was. Studies from Barna and Gallup show that for the first time ever, less than 50% of Americans have church membership. The primary reason? People having no religious association at all.
Much of this is because of the slow dissolving of Christendom as the foundation of our culture. People no longer grow up having an inherent understanding of who God is and how that impacts their world.
As a culture, we are now told that we are responsible to make our own meaning. There is no transcendent order. We are no longer told how to achieve happiness and instead, we are told we have to figure out how to find it ourselves. You do you, and it’ll all work out.
If we start to map out where we see the trajectory of the world going, we understand that what’s worked in the past as productive ways to engage our culture is not going to work in the future. We have to find a new way. We need a paradigm shift. We need a new model.
It’s like the paralytic man not being able to go through the front door of the home to encounter Jesus. Instead of continuing to try and get through a way that isn’t working and overcrowded, his friends rip open the roof and lower him down to receive healing of his sins and body. His friends know how important it is to get their friend to Jesus, so they do whatever it takes to get inside, even if it’s not how it’s usually done.
Just like the friends breaking open the roof, a new model is emerging for the Church. We have to communicate the same truth but in a way that resonates with this new culture. It’s up to all of us to overcome the barriers of our time in order to bring people to Jesus.
This is the reason my team and I get up in the morning. We are motivated by the new model because we don’t see any other way to spread the Gospel in today’s age. For us, our call is building tools like Tilma for ministry people like yourself, that create opportunities for the Church to engage with the world we live in.
At the heart of ministry is helping to rightly order someone’s relationships with God and one another. Those are the moments we love, right? Engaging with someone, letting them know they are seen and loved so that they can be open to encountering God.
In the new model, this starts by going small. Big programs and big groups no longer work when Christendom is dead, but small, connected, deep communities are how we can create meaningful moments that spread the Gospel. When we have lots of people in small groups, it creates resilience against the surge of culture.
To do small communities well, we have to start with ourselves. How well do you know yourself? How well do you know Jesus? Because until you figure out who you are at the depths of your being, it’s going to be hard to search for that in others.
Are you kind and compassionate to yourself? Are you in touch with your humanity? Do you understand who you are in God’s family?
When we operate within the Spirit and the way God has made us, it allows God to flow through us to bring life to those around us. Sometimes it is healing. Sometimes it is prayer. Sometimes it is words that are deeper than ourselves. But we need to operate within the way God’s made us first to step into this new model. We can’t do it without it. We have to understand how to build God’s Kingdom within ourselves first before we try to build it anywhere else.
Building the kingdom of God is always going to take effort and may require, in some ways, being able to also let go of an old model of yourself and stepping into a new one God has been planning for you all along. The better we understand our identity in God, the more we can pour out to others and see the kingdom grow.