Church v.2020 – Ten Changes:
#8 More About Following – Less About Membership
When compared with the American church of 2012, the future church (v.2020) will focus more on following and less on membership. This shift places the emphasis on following the way of Jesus rather than being a faithful member of a local church. Toward this end, likely changes include:
- An approach to belonging and deepening individual’s connection to the faith community that values assimilation into a community of followers over membership (the shift toward beginning with belonging is explored in greater detail as the #5 change needed for the church of the future). Rather than measuring the growth or decline in church membership from year to year, congregations measure those who have found a place within the life of the community (those who belong). This approach allows for membership as an outgrowth of belonging, rather than an official starting point.
- A “followership mentality” rather than one based on membership that guides the life of the faith community. In effect, this is an updated form of what many have been describing (but far fewer have been practicing) for years. As an example, I have updated Michael Foss’ list (found in Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church, 2000) to use language that is better suited for the increasingly postmodern years ahead (italics reflect changes: Foss’ original list used model not mentality and discipleship and disciples not followership and followers).
People are increasingly open to opportunities to connect with and belong to groups that matter. Local congregations are faith groups/communities that nurture people at every stage within the journey of life. Less institutional and more egalitarian (the shift toward a more egalitarian community is the #2 change needed for the church of the future), the church focused on followership is a highly relational family of faith.
- How well does your congregation do in welcoming newcomers into full participation in the life of your faith community whether or not those individuals have any interest in formalizing their belonging through membership?
- In what areas does your congregation reflect a membership mentality? What changes would be needed to fully embrace a followership mentality well before the church of the future (v.2020) arrives?
- Discuss the following questions with at least one other person affiliated with your congregation. (1) What does it mean to be a member of your church? (2) What does it mean to be a follower of the way of Jesus? (3) What does it mean to be a follower of the way of Jesus nurtured in the context of the community of faith to which you currently belong?