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A Picture of a Vibrant Church in the US in 2030 -Part 3 of 7: Communities of Missionaries

You already know the institutional church is a whisper of what it was in 2030. Mostly gone.    

But, over the last decade a vibrant church has begun to emerge…

  • The church discovered that it could carry a “light backpack.” 
  • It invested in relational discipleship. Changed the congregational culture. It was the single greatest shift responsible for what emerged in 2030. 
  • The baptized people of God assumed their rightful posture as missionaries. It was the second greatest shift responsible for a vibrant church in 2030.

In spite of hostility and persecution in 2030, discipled believers embody an air of excitement and deep abiding trust.

Unfortunately, a decade earlier most leaders opted out of discipleship. Dismissed it. Didn’t know how. Didn’t try. Didn’t recognize the power of starting with a few. Most of their churches just got older and weaker. They didn’t try.

But, a few…pioneers!… they courageously made the jump and now in 2030 the people of God see the Mission of God entrusted to them.  

They eat meals together.

They build relationships together.

They share life stories together.

They speak grace and truth from the heart of God as they represent Jesus together. 

They trust the Holy Spirit to transform lives through the Word.

It’s difficult to imagine what’s emerged from a decade ago. A decade ago…

  • Only 25% of the U.S. population said they worshiped at least once a month and that their faith was very important to them. (“A Snapshot of Faith Practice Across Age Groups” Barna, 2019.) 
“A Snapshot of Faith Practice Across Age Groups” Barna, 2019.
  • Most of the 350,000 churches in the U.S. focused on the 25% and ignored the exploding, growing, 75% distanced from God and His church.    
  • Churches were tagged judgmental.    
  • Pastors were distrusted. They felt defeated.   


Jesus was identified as a friend of sinners. (Matthew 11:19)

Pharisees complained that he ate with tax collectors and sinners. (Luke 15:1-2)

Jesus said: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Sent by a missionary God who wants His world back.) (Luke 19:10)

Jesus said: “As the Father sent me so I send you.” (We are sent as missionaries, too.) (John 20:21)

Many decades ago, Christians acted with love and mercy. 

  • Built hospitals.  
  • Built schools.  
  • Built orphanages. 
  • Built adoption agencies.  
  • Built retirement communities.  
  • Built low income housing.  

They were the “builder generation.” Outstanding! Absolutely amazing!

A decade ago institutions became distrusted…including the church.

The reason a vibrant church emerged in 2030:

Christians were discipled to step over the “us and them” posture between the church and a hostile world. They demonstrated love and mercy…personally, not just through institutions.  They ran toward needs. They functioned like the early church…the outlawed, persecuted church…they told the story of Jesus. Believers gathered together welcoming “sinners” into their communities.

This was difficult for the pioneers. Most were “sensors” in Myers Briggs language. “It’s difficult to imagine what I can’t sense…see, touch, feel, smell.” They made plenty of mistakes. They persisted. They found places to learn…models to observe. They miraculously began to observe fruit being born. They were encouraged.

The anger and distrust toward Christians was overcome one person at a time across kitchen tables and backyard fences, not from pulpits and media campaigns. 

The beliefs, values, and behaviors of the 75% outside the church were much, much different than people imagined. (See this explanation.) 

They became a friend of sinners.

  • Living lives of discipled integrity and compassion.
  • Always prepared to give an answer.
  • Inviting people into small communities with Jesus at the center. 

Most church leaders a decade ago chose to… 

  • Ignore reality. 
  • Shrink away. 
  • Leave no legacy of a church for their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. 
  • Blame someone. 
  • Search for the magic answer.

But a few church leaders summoned the courage to lead…

  • They were discipled and began to relationally disciple others knowing that discipleship had always included mission.  
  • Others took baby steps. They used BLESS as a tool. Every time the board/class/group met…
    • Each one shared a story of how they BLESSed 
    • People celebrated and gave thanks. Encouraged.
    • They prayed together for those they BLESSed.
    • They began to act their way into new discoveries.

So, how about some conversation around the leadership table at your church (not too late to invite your council/elders/staff/friends…you won’t get there by yourself.) 

  • Make a list of everything that’s “wrong” with what we’ve written above. Explain what you don’t like. Tell each other why it won’t work at your church.   
  • Now, look in the Gospels or the Book of Acts. Read anything that might support what you read above?   
  • Allow us to be bold! We don’t know your church, but we’re guessing the fire alarm is ringing. 2030 doesn’t look pretty. This is the most difficult challenge you’ll lead. (We’ve seen God surprise humble, dependent church leaders!) Start today. Take one of two actions:
    • Read the BLESS blog. Start practicing it every time your group gathers. You’ll start acting your way into a new posture. Think Luke 10 and the sending of the 72.
    • Join PLI’s 2 ½ year Discipleship to Missional Community learning community in January if you want to start to shift the culture and learn the skills. Raechel will help you figure it out. No one pioneers their way forward by themselves.  

FYI… PLI’s international team began teaching pastors and spouses in Papua New Guinea this week for the first time. Would you pray for them? And, intercede on behalf of the U.S. leaders reading this who have lost hope, and their pastors and spouses who carry a heavy burden.

One Response

  1. Alan Lull says:

    I love reading your stuff — love it and keep it up — I will too 🙂

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