Journey to and Beyond

The Church that LBC’s Freshmen will inherit

(My article in Echo Magazine for Lancaster Bible College, winter 2013)

In many ways, life is a journey—predictable and unexpected at the same time. Some of the changes along the way are more significant than others, and going to college is one of these significant changes. The incoming class of college freshmen faces exciting opportunities and substantial challenges. When they graduate in 2017, they will be faced with a Church that looks quite different from the Church that this generation has known.

As a fellow pilgrim, allow me to share what I have learned from my journey. I began ministry as a college student and youth pastor in the greater Philadelphia area. A couple of years later, my wife and I moved to the university town of Millersville, Pennsylvania, to start a church. I was only 25 years old, and we had 7 people in our initial group. This fall we will begin our 29 year at the church. God has faithfully worked through each step of the way.

Our world is much different from when I entered ministry 30 years ago. Although it’s not easy to predict how things might change in four years, here is what I’ve seen approaching. Advancements in science, technology, and medicine have been amazing over the past few decades. Through internet and cell phone technology, the world has become a smaller, more connected place. The amount of information available to us is overwhelming. These changes continue to offer both opportunities and potential dangers.

With the explosion of available information, longstanding questions of Christian apologetics, such as “How do we know what is true?” and “Hasn’t science liberated us from the need to believe in God?” will continue to deserve careful attention. The church cannot assume that people will easily accept the Bible as God’s Word and as the sole authority for faith and practice. They must learn how to make a case for the truth of the Bible and for the exclusive truth claims regarding Jesus as the only way to God.

Along with this challenge, the future church must confront an age-old tendency toward legalism. Few things have been more disruptive to the unity of churches and their witness for Christ than legalism. Future leaders must understand and counter this internal threat. When Scripture is misrepresented as requiring more than it does, it gives people more excuses for discounting the Bible.

We must learn how to distinguish the things clearly commanded and forbidden in Scripture from those things that are permitted and left to our conscience. The future Church will be challenged with the task to maturely follow leadership yet carefully distinguish between these institution-imposed standards and the explicit commands of God.

Increased concerns about the dangers of radical Islam could bring a backlash for Christians. As more people view radical Islam as a primary source of violence, they will likely become more skeptical of and perhaps even hostile toward religious organizations or beliefs that are viewed as radical, hurtful, or exclusive.

This means that Christians will have to learn to communicate the exclusive truth claims of Jesus in ways that do not unnecessarily provoke misunderstanding. Teaching Jesus’ call to love your enemies, the future church will learn to model this love to radical religions.

In a world that increasingly portrays Christians as intolerant, the future church will face the daunting task of remaining firm in truth without creating a rift between people of other beliefs. Tolerance has been the most emphasized social standard for the last several decades. I expect this issue to only increase because tolerance has been used more as an agenda of power to coerce society to accept certain ways of thinking on issues like gay marriage.

This will mean that people who hold the historic view of marriage and the view Jesus taught of marriage as a gift from God for male and female (Matthew 19:4-6) will be forced into public silence or threatened with charges of discrimination.

This could end up being a defining issue for the Church. Christian beliefs about marriage are rooted in our commitment to the way God created us and to marriage as God’s ordained gift for our good. If activists have their way, however, they will target churches that refuse to perform gay weddings and those that do not accept gay members. These churches will be falsely equated to those that practice racial discrimination.

America has become far more ethnically, religiously, ideologically diverse and the true virtue of tolerance is necessary to the civility of a diverse society. Diverse societies suffer when people do not respect each other, but we must help people understand that tolerance as a valued ethic does not mean putting up with differences or forcing everyone to agree but to truly respect others despite differences.

Somewhere along the way true tolerance was replaced with a counterfeit operating under the same name. The new version demands agreement, not respect, and the results are eroding our freedoms. Tolerance, as a virtue, actually shines most when people deeply disagree but still manage to treat each other with respect. We have an opportunity not only to teach the truth about tolerance but also to show people that the gospel is for people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The Church should reflect this diversity as a body of people united in a common Savior.

Additionally, few things have changed the nature of ministry more in the past two decades than the demise of marriages and families. After more than 10 million divorces in the last 15 years and about a million new children of divorce every year, church leaders are inundated with requests for family related counseling and ministry. Gratefully, people often to turn to God for help in their desperation, but churches are typically unprepared to offer aid. Anyone preparing for ministry must be aware of and prepared for this reality.

Churches are also increasingly functioning as surrogate families to children and youth from broken homes. I expect a growing need for well-trained church-based counselors— especially female counselors.

Those who desire to be involved in church ministry should look for training in marriage and family related issues. They should gain a strong understanding of God’s will regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage. They should also prepare for preventive ministries that help people know how to make the marriage decision and offer premarital preparation.

Finally, anyone who wishes to serve in the future church needs to be fully transformed by God. God is far more interested in changing us as people than about where we serve. 

  • Remind yourself daily of God’s undeserved gift in the gospel of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
  • Remind yourself daily of God’s undeserved gift in the gospel of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).
  • Encounter God daily based on Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16.
  • Learn to distrust yourself enough to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-7).
  • Keep short accounts with God about sin (I John 1:9-2:2).
  • Walk closely with those who walk with God (Psalm 1:1-3).
  • Pursue wisdom by learning Scripture because “the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
  • Humble yourself before God and then humble yourself again (Matthew 18:1-5; 1 Peter 5:5-6).
  • Be connected with a local Church and serve God’s people (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 3:12-13; 13:7,17).
  • Don’t live in a Christian bubble but live as salt to the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
  • Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

Anyone pursuing these priorities will be well prepared for years of service to the Church of Jesus Christ.

By Steve Cornell

Senior Pastor, Millersville Bible Church, Millersville, PA

Member, President’s Pastors Advisory Council

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Call to ministry, Calling, Church, Church Leadership, Evangelicals, Evangelism, Future events, Leadership, Ministry updates, Wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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