Challenges for the Church in the New Millennium
by Robert J. Young

Note: On the first Sunday of January, 2000, I presented to a combined adult Bible class a list of items that the church must thoughtfully address if we are to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles which were published in the church bulletin. They are reprinted here in the hope they will be helpful to even more people. These may be freely used as deemed appropriate.

| Introduction | The Bible & Truth-#1 | Bible Inspiration-#2 | Bible Interpretation-#3 | Nature of Church-#4 | Possibility of Unity-#5 | Worldliness-#6 | Christian Experience-#7 | Christian Missions-#8 | Christian Hope-#9 | Human Nature-#10 | Christian Living-#11 |

Many challenges are before us as we enter the new millennium. Meeting these challenges will require the wisdom of God, careful thinking, and disciplined lives. This article surveys the three general headings and the twelve specific areas of concern which were addressed Sunday morning in Bible class. These twelve areas will be expanded in individual articles over the next several months.

This list is not intended to be inclusive, but to suggest significant concerns. Close on the heels of these items would be the rethinking of multiple issues surrounding the nature and work of God. What kind of God is at work in this world? How is he at work? Is his work, as demonstrated in creation, revelation, the incarnation, and redemption, a "once for all" work, described in the New Testament by the Greek word hapax, or a "more and more" work, described by the word mallon? What of the work of the Holy Spirit? To think correctly about these and a host of related matters (such as the nature and power of prayer) will require our best thinking coupled with God's revealed wisdom. May the next year and future years be a time for rethinking our faith so we might fulfill all the potential God places in us and meet the challenges God places before us.

A first set of challenges is in the general area of Bible knowledge. F. LaGard Smith has suggested that a major issue of the 1990s was biblical ignorance. Three specific areas related to the Bible must be considered. (1) What is the nature of Bible, its relationship to human thought, and what is the nature of truth? (2) What is the nature of biblical inspiration and what impact does it have upon our affirmation of the Scriptures as authoritative? (3) What is a correct process of biblical interpretation, e.g. what is a proper hermeneutical approach?

A second area of challenge is in various "church issues." This is not a reference to what we usually categorize as issues. Two things are in view. These are matters we must address as a group and these are matters that relate to a biblical understanding of what it means to be church, to live in the context of church, and to fulfill the obligations which come to us as part of the body of Christ. Six specific concerns were suggested in this area. (1) What is the nature of the church? (2) What is a proper attitude toward unity, and a workable process which will result in unity? What should be our attitude toward ecumenical movements? What should be our attitude toward opportunities for cooperation in areas of mutual concern such as moral issues? (3) What is the relationship of the church to the world? (4) What is the nature of Christian experience? This will require that we think clearly and restudy biblically such subjects as worship, gender roles, the value of human beings (including racial and ethnic matters), the nature of our fellowship, and biblical methods for resolving differences. We must attempt to understand the impact of culture in these areas while maintaining a firmly biblical stance. (5) What is the nature of the Christian mission? (6) What is the nature of the Christian hope, i.e. what is a proper eschatology or understanding of the last times?

The third general area of concern is in the matter of Bible applications which result in spiritual, disciplined, Christ-like lifestyles. Three specific questions deserve attention. (1) What is the nature of the human being? (2) How can I change my self to be most like Jesus? (3) What is the nature of my fellowship and sharing with other Christians?

Such subjects are indeed challenges to the church. We must prayerfully and carefully seek God's knowledge and wisdom while defining our Christian thinking and attitudes. How we think, what we think about, our priorities, will, and decisions must reflect in our hearts as the body of Christ on earth the heart of Jesus.

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Last updated February 21, 2001.