Being the Church in the 21st Century

Jesus said that he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). He did not say what the church would look like.

History tells us that roughly every 500 years the Church undergoes a massive shift. These shifts are unsettling, difficult and unpredictable. And the church always emerges stronger. It did after the Roman Empire fell, when the corruption of the Church led to schism around 1000 and during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

By our math, another shift is due.

The world is radically different today than it was in 500 or 1000 or 1500. It is radically different than it was in 1950. We are connected in ways that have never been possible in human history. There are possibilities and problems both outside our doors and in our homes that are unprecedented.

So how is the Church—yours and mine and everyone else’s—to be the Church in this “brave new world”? How do we live and function as disciples of Jesus?

The systems and structures of the last 500 years are likely coming to an end. In some cases they have become corrupted. In others they simply do not fit the world we now inhabit. This is not a comfortable thought. It is not a comfortable place to live and follow Christ. But then, Christians have always known that we do not “fit”, that we are not called to blend. We know that we are exiles (1 Peter 2:11), that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). At the same time, we are still very much men and women of our time and places, our ethnicities and cultures and socioeconomic statuses. These do not magically disappear even though, as Paul tells us, they no longer define who we are (Galatians 3:26-29; Colossians 3:1-4,11).

When Jesus calls us, he calls us to follow him, to be his disciples. He calls blue-collar workers like fishermen and white-collar workers like tax collectors. He calls the young and the old, the rich and the poor. His call crosses the boundaries of race and ethnicity, of culture and status. When we lose sight of this fact, we lose the heart of Jesus.

Authentic discipleship is not a program, it is the pursuit of God. This has been true no matter what the Church looks like, when or where it thrives. Through all of the upheaval the Church has faced in 2000 years, Jesus’ call to make disciples has endured. The Church has endured. The truth of the Gospel has endured.

True discipleship includes (at least) 4 ingredients:

  • Knowledge and understanding of God as revealed in the Scriptures
  • Experience: an authentic encounter with Jesus
  • Membership in the Body of Christ that goes beyond a “me and Jesus” faith
  • Active engagement of our faith in our diverse world

The Church today is facing unprecedented changes, pressures and uncertainties. But the Church is far bigger, far more resilient than we can imagine. There is one church, the Church of Jesus Christ. Together we are the family of God, a family that transcends time, space, ethnicity and culture. We need one another. We are all called to be disciples of Jesus and to help one another be more like him.

Apollos Watered is committed to helping the church be the church in this unprecedented moment. We believe that means exploring new methods, learning from one another, and strengthening our common bond in Christ no matter who or where we are. At the same time, we must remain faithful to the core tenets of our faith.

Apollos Watered wants to be your partner in the pursuit. Join us as we explore what it means to be faithful disciples of Jesus in our ever changing world.

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