Many changes in society and church occurred due to the revolution, computerization, and globalization. The growth of pluralism, various competing worldviews, and concerns in the uniqueness of Christian worship appeared. In the 19th century, the revolution in the understanding of history led society away from an evolutionary approach. Gospel of Christians was influenced by this view of history in that they considered the past unimportant, and only the future mattered.
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A lot of unchurched people and isolation of the church led to exile. Today, there is a new establishment of Christianity with a focus on discipleship, missional outreach, and the Biblical images as the basis of Christendom.
This paper aims to examine the current ministry environment based on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis framework. The concepts and themes explored during the course will be used to conduct the investigation. The feedback comments received for previous assignments will also be taken into account to identify and study personal and spiritual growth options and future engagement in the ministry.
Identifying Current Ministry Context
The Church in the 21st Century course provided the links to connect the Biblical images and modern reality, thus promoting theological understandings. Today’s church exists in a postmodern epoch of Christendom that is still shaping its vision (Beach, 2015). For many years, the tendency to become estranged from God was prevailing, while the journey back to Him is a vivid characteristic of the contemporary religious aspirations.
The lessons learned from the exilic events show the ways the church may utilize to respond properly. When Jonah felt that he was renounced by God, he stated: “I will look again toward your holy temple … and when my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple … I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you” (Jonah 2:4-2:9, NIV). This prophet may be comprehended as Toda that is an expression of thanksgiving and devotion. Even though Jonah felt God’s abandonment, he demonstrates exilic piety and holiness. The antidote to the Western church’s arrogance and complacency is penitence.
Defining the nowadays’ ministry context, it is possible to focus on Wesley’s concepts of heart and affections. Clapper (2010) notes that people tend to use them regarding their emotions, while the mentioned theorist implied hopes, values, and desires. In other words, the modern cultural background is not close to the church due to the conceptualization principles. Tickle (2012) specifies today’s position of the church as being in exile and forming as emergent Christianity.
A range of works and events was written by religionists to define the new church: the social Gospel of Azusa Street and Walter Rauschenbusch may be enumerated among others. The latter was especially focused on the social crisis of the 21st century and revisiting cultural implications for the church. The call for reformation and returning to Jesus is the paramount idea promoted by this seminal work.
The need for change is emphasized by the theologists as a way to approach the church as Christ would do if He physically presented. According to Tidsworth (2015), a new paradigm in the church identity is necessary as it can facilitate the missional outreach and make its work more conscious. The authors assume that the shift from member identity to church identity is likely to lead to experiencing satisfaction and meaningfulness from coming closer to God. It is important to understand that the congregation composes disciples of Jesus Christ, which is the transition to realizing one’s identity as God’s own.
Evaluating Ministry Context
The context of the post-Christian society is characterized by the greater priority assigned to orthopraxy compared to orthodoxy. Beach (2015) declares that to propose and achieve transformative spirituality, the church emphasizes the role of practice, while the theoretical foundations cannot be undermined in no event. The first issue when a person comes to religion should be the church yet not the Bible. In this connection, genuine faith is preferable rather than the content-centered service that implies following particular doctrines.
The integration of identity, theology, and mission points to the strategy of people living in exile, which is the praxis of the church (Beach, 2015). They gather in small groups, reach needy neighbors, and strive to help their communities.
Based on the review of the 21st-century church, one may suggest that exile is a motif that stimulates people and ministers to better understand themselves in terms of Christianity and church discipleship. The challenges of exile contain not only geographical dislocation but also spiritual and cultural alienation of people. Tabori’s work pinpoints the inner exile when a believer experiences exile even in the home country but being marginalized and detached from the supreme God (Beach, 2015).
Similar difficulties that have the potential to form a foundation for recovery exist in the context of the Western church. The situation is complicated by the dichotomy of spiritual yet not religious. Emergent Christianity is marked by the fact that many believers are likely to debate the Bible role, but they consider the presence of some higher power significant.
The very notion of a sacred space seems to be controversial now since the institutional church implies the gathering of people to support each other (Tickle, 2012). The church as the place for worship becomes less important than ever. Despite its complexity, the modern environment is beneficial for nurturing relationships and building a more responsive congregation, which are the two key strategies for ministers.
For example, various methods of worship, including choreography, dancing, and musical sessions, appear. It is clear that the church’s context continues to change, and there is a need to remain informed and adapt to it. Tickle (2012) invites pastors, priests, and any other interested parties to welcome these changes and act as open-minded explorers. One may state that the contemporary church is in exile that poses many difficulties for believers whose cultural and social priorities and practices tend to transform. Accordingly, it is expected that the church would explore the trends and opportunities to build on them and adjust its mission and strategies to achieve it.
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The balance is the first strength of the contemporary church as it implies reaching the unchurched people and attracting them through the missional work. In this case, a task-driven church leader is a key person who can disseminate the ideas regarding the importance of religion and be with God (Beach, 2015). Christ states: “so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
Indeed, even though criticism may be directed towards the church, the strength of the leaders is that they react properly, following the Great Commission, the instruction given to disciples of Christ to spread His teaching.
Prayer is the second powerful strength that is essential for both individuals and the church as a whole. It is important to understand that prayer allows finding answers to the most complicated questions, and the decisions made without asking God about them would not be successful. The Bible shows that Jesus Christ often isolated Himself to pray and be lonely to have some time to ponder over various issues. It allowed Him to gain power and help others as appropriate.
For instance, when Peter was taken by Herod, the church was aware of whom to consult and how to act in this case (Acts 12:1-18, NIV). Today, the church practices the same principle of praying before any critical decision or event, be it traveling, preaching, or selecting new ministers.
The missional nature of the church is another strength that focuses on its mission as the incarnation of Christ and his ideas. This church considers that Christ initially appeared in the form of a human to transform the local culture and direct people on their way to faith (Beach, 2015). In other words, the missional church targets spiritual involvement that can take different forms, such as hospitality, social activism, messages to the community members disseminating God’s words, et cetera.
Such an approach makes the church a central part of society and clearly explains to people that it is pertinent to modern reality. The examples of Esther, Daniel, and Peter, who practiced the integration with the culture illustrate that it is useful in exile. As a result, “the Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict reached, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday” (Esther 8:16-17, NIV). The missional outreach contributes to expanding the kingdom of God, which the pivotal goal of the gospel.
A lack of training on how to approach the congregation and attract new believers is the main weakness of the 21st-century church. Namely, they have little awareness of how to communicate the church’s mission and align its people’s shifted values (Tidsworth, 2015). In turn, the limited training and teaching lead to one more weakness that is the division of believers and even pastors. Often, it is possible to hear that a certain believer prefers a specific pastor and states that he or she belongs to him or her. Such a situation may be observed in the example of brothers and sisters who declare that they are for a particular apostle.
It should be remembered that all people belong to God (Corinthians, 3:1-23, NIV). Consequently, believers target only their individual needs, while the common good and the fate of their communities remain uncovered. These weaknesses undermine the church’s authority and its potential in assisting people with their struggles and aspirations.
The first opportunity that is worth paying attention to is a faith-sharing in small groups and favoritism. Instead of selecting some pastors, believers may meet within small gatherings and discuss their critical concerns. Although it may be unaccustomed and difficult, open dialogues are likely to evoke sincerity and piety towards the church and the society (Tidsworth, 2015). The practice of self-disclosure causes the intent to share with others, telling similar experiences, thus feeling like a part of something great.
While some believers may be geographically isolated from their homeland, and others encounter internal exile, they still can have a place for uniting. The following excerpt from the Bible is representative of the discussed opportunity: “The Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many amid the land” (Isaiah 6:12, NIV).
The outwardly-focused vision is another opportunity for the modern church, especially to reach non-Christians and those believers who are not yet their congregation. The pastors, in terms of the attractional method, should be passionate about their role in guiding people on their journey to God. Beach (2015) thinks that ambition and thriving are expected to be the key driving forces to initiate attractional events and programs.
For example, one of the most effective Evangelistic methodologies was applied by the ministry of Billy Graham, who promoted the belief in the Holy Scripture, the Lord’s plans, and equipped pastors with pertinent tools to attract people, as suggested by (Beach, 2015). The local church outreach program is another opportunity that may include special Bible summer courses for children, inexpensive educational lessons, or a concert with Christian artists. All of these actions should be practically valuable to non-believers so that they can understand the gospel message.
Criticism of the ministry is dangerous as it can destroy its functioning and make people doubt the very impact of the church on the life of society and every individual. According to Wesleyan theology, the threat may harm making believers happy and vigorous and impede the efforts to promote love and peace in the world (Clapper, 2010). It is erroneous to assume that Christianity is attractive to all and hymn, sermon, and Eucharist are perceived by all the people equally. The empathy towards spirituality needs to be followed to work with those who are not a part of the church.
The threat of Ecclesial Poachers is essential to discuss to avoid it in the future. Robert Webber evolved much attention to the evangelicals and emergent Christians, releasing the book titled Canterbury Trail that points to the distinction between these two concepts (Tickle, 2012). For example, he notes worship held in the church of Christ in Nashville, the great Pentecostal church, which seeks to hold services like it was accepted in the early church. This church holds a special Eucharist for all comers during Sunday school classes, and the entire parish participates in the communion. Thus, the threat is the division of ecclesiast and emergent notions.
Developing a Course of Action
The demise of Christendom and exile of the Western church require specific actions to be adopted to properly respond to these issues and navigate uncertainty regarding religion. The ministry is expected to use exile as a tool to understand current tendencies and build on the opportunities, thus considering it from a positive point of view.
In Jeremiah (29:4-14, NIV), the Lord says to the exiles: “build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce… Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters. Among the approaches and methods that can be employed, there are disseminating faith, the outwardly-focused vision, revisited worship, a focus on orthopraxy, and the promotion of discipleship.
In recent decades, the influence of the church and values has increased noticeably. However, the current state of the church dictates the need to endeavor more and improve the church attendance and people’s closeness to the Lord (Beach, 2015). Christianity should be perceived as the most important integrating force and a factor of spiritual and moral revival. In terms of opportunities, evangelical Christians are to bring a strong dedication to God, commitment to the authority of the Scripture, and passion for taking care of the needs of others. It seems important to point out that the very first issue is that believers and ministries need to return to the true biblical worship that is directed not at the people around but to Him (Marti & Ganiel, 2014).
The core concern should not be what is achieved, but what it means or represents. Such an approach should target God, His mission of salvation. By praying before every significant event or action and asking God about decisions, a believer receives the opportunity to succeed.
Faith sharing potential is to be regarded as the pivotal method for integrating people through small groups and communities. While meeting several times a week and discussing the most serious issues that are of interest to the group members, it is possible to practice self-disclosure and accomplish openness towards others (Marti & Ganiel, 2014). The benefits of this recommendation may be expressed in mutual trust, support, and relationship building, which are consistent with the principles of beneficence and felicity.
In this connection, the role of orthopraxy is great in understanding the current people with their cultural and social background. More to the point, the pastors should declare that worship is first, and the Holy Scripture should be taught after that. It is essential to stress that the Bible’s role cannot be argued, but the reality requires adjusting the attraction strategies used by ministers for years.
A range of creative worship methods should be used in terms of the missional outreach of the church. The service may, for example, begin with jazz foreplay and talking about gathering people. The worship group may sing a few songs devoted to love, friendship, and humility, followed by announcements and a sermon (Beach, 2015). Depending on a certain theme of the gathering, a preacher may tell about it from the perspective of God and His teaching.
For instance, he or she may exhort the people that if they strive to design a good relationship with the family, they should love them by spending time with them and providing responsiveness and attentiveness. The sermon may be supported with various verses from the Scripture and mentioning of God’s words. In so doing, the church is expected to promote belief in the gospel and its role in improving believers’ lives. The ministry should be focused on God as well as helping the congregation to have better relationships and form a conscious view of their actions and aspirations.
The ministry should pay more attention to the reality of Christ, the Head of the Church, and that everything appears in the presence of God. More to the point, it is necessary to discover the dialogical nature of God’s words (Beach, 2015). When a reader or a preacher speaks, He is present in this. The pastors are to try to find methods for how to make the communication of the people with Him more interactive.
For example, one may return the singing of psalms, the questions and answers during or after the sermon, and the invocation prayers. It is possible to recommend reviving the festive character of the Eucharist. The feeling of resurrection can be achieved with the help of prayer singing with the simultaneous laying on of hands. All of the mentioned actions are likely to enhance communication between the church, God, and believers.
The feeling of God’s presence in the world should be proposed to those who do not belong to the church and non-Christians. Beach (2015) insists that more attention needs to be paid to how the blessing is communicated and how people are sent on a mission to the world. In this regard, the application of the outwardly-focused vision seems to be appropriate to ensure that new believers would come to the church due to understanding that it can help them to live a more sophisticated life.
Among the attractional approaches, one may list a special program designed for kids and adults and based on the biblical images (Beach, 2015). The practical importance of the programs can be easily accessible to potential believers. As a result, the increasing congregation and in-depth comprehension of the very mission of the 21st-century church are likely to be reached.
While caring about people, ministers should also take into account their affairs. In particular, the role of continuous training cannot be overestimated as a lack of communication skills is revealed as a critical issue. The lessons provided by theological organizations and universities may be useful to explain to them that the new environment requires a shift from the outdated strategies: exile sets its requirements that are to be addressed and viewed as the opportunities for spiritual growth, both personal and professional. The promotion of discipleship is one of the strategies that should be taught to pastors, Sunday teachers, and other church representatives (Sittser & Calderon, 2018).
The fact that many people identify themselves as belonging to a single church or a pastor should be changed, and the term of discipleship is to be revived to create a commitment, diligence, and temperance. Thus, properly trained pastors will be capable of implementing and monitoring all of the discussed actions to transform the church in exile and provide their benefits to believers. The ministry is expected to target both the heads and hearts of people in encouraging them to follow Christian postulates.
In conclusion, one should emphasize that due to the church in exile, believers experienced cultural and social transformation. It is significant to enthusiastically take on discipleship, have a desire for spiritual formation, and propose evangelism to the society. The methods of worship should be carefully contextualized for the postmodern Christendom. It will give dynamic worship based on the biblical narrative, having a time-tested form, and spiritual reflection regarding modern reality.
The paramount role of the ministry, in this case, is to propose orthopraxy and missional outreach as the key strategies to attract new believers and keep the existing ones committed. Training is required for pastors to learn how to communicate with their congregation effectively to disseminate the words of God, aligning them to contemporary social values. In general, even though the Western church faces many challenges, it can be viewed as opportunities to improve. Through putting deep theological understandings, repentance, and transformative spirituality in its environment, the ministry can revive.
Beach, L. (2015). The church in exile: Living in hope after Christendom. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
The Bible, New International version (NIV). (n.d.). Web.
Clapper, G. S. (2010). The renewal of the heart is the mission of the church: Wesley’s heart religion in the twenty-first century. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Marti, G., & Ganiel, G. (2014). The deconstructed church: Understanding emerging Christianity. New Yok, NY: Oxford University Press.
Sittser, G. L., & Calderon, C. (2018). Discipleship in Christendom… and Beyond. EMQ, 54(1), 25-30.
Tickle, P. (2012). Emergence Christianity: What it is, where it is going, and why it matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.
Tidsworth, M. (2015). Shift: Three big moves for the 21st century church. Chapin, SC: Pinnacle Leadership Press.