Developing a 2020 Vision for the Church:
An Introduction

by Dr. Bob Young
Thanksgiving 2017

Note: On the first Sunday of January 2000, I presented in a combined adult Bible class a list of items to be thoughtfully addressed if the church were to be a viable voice in the new millennium. I was asked to expand the list from that Bible class presentation into a series of bulletin articles. Those articles are still available on this website: Foundations Series.
Almost 20 years later, it is definitely time for a rewrite. The question is still valid: how can the church be a viable voice in the contemporary world? What questions must we address? What understandings are essential for Christianity to survive and thrive in the world we know today? This new series is again being written as articles, but it is expected that the articles will also be useful as outlines for sermon series or seminar presentations.
In this new series, I write to set forth a 20/20 vision, so that we might see more clearly, and to set a goal to be accomplished by the year 2020. The next two years will fly by quickly. Will the church learn anything from what it has experienced? Can the apparent decline in Christianity be reversed? Will the church find renewed strength and resolve to present God's truth with boldness, daring, and sensitivity so that a new generations of Christians learn to live in the world without becoming worldly, to understand the call to unity and diversity, to renew the mission so the primary message is always one of eternal hope? Now is the time to begin working toward the reality God desires for his people.

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| Introduction | #1: Truth | #2: Bible Inspiration | #3: Bible Interpretation | #4: Church | #5: Unity | #6: Worldliness | #7: Christian Experience | #8: Mission | #9: Hope | #10: Human Nature | #11: Christian Living |

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The challenges that confront the church grow daily. As one looks back over the last 20 years, the challenges have grown almost exponentially. Meeting the challenges will require the wisdom of God, careful thinking, and disciplined lives. This article surveys the three general headings and the specific areas of concern which will be addressed in this series.

The list of subjects addressed in this series is not intended to be inclusive, but only to suggest some especially significant concerns. Certainly the list of those concerns the church must address is much longer. Close behind these items would be the need to rethink 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 serious thinking and study to understand God's revealed wisdom. May the time of rethinking our faith begin now so we can fulfill the potential God places within us and meet the challenges God places before us.

A first set of challenges is in the general area of Bible knowledge. More than one observer has suggested that a major issue of the 1990s was biblical ignorance. The problem remains and has likely intensified in the first two decades of the 21st century. Three specific areas related to the Bible must be considered. (1) What is the nature of the Bible, what is 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? The first three articles and presentations in the series focus on truth, inspiration, and interpretation.

A second area to be studied involves various "church matters." I would prefer to call them "church issues" but the topics I will address are not the things we usually categorize as issues. These "church matters" have two things in common: first, they are matters we must address as a group, because second, they 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 that come to us because we are part of the body of Christ. I will address six specific concerns in six articles. (1) What is the nature of the church? (2) What is a proper understanding of and attitude toward unity, including an effort that will develop a workable process that 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 biblical stance. (5) What is the nature of the Christian mission? In a time when mission work has largely be hijacked in too many churches, how does one balance the need to be compassionate and the mandate to take the gospel to the world? (6) What is the nature of Christian hope? Set into the larger context, 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 will result in spiritual, disciplined, Christ-like lifestyles. Numerous questions can be raised, but three specific questions will be addressed in the final two articles in the series: (1) What is the nature of the human being? (2) How can I experience the transformed life to be more like Jesus? (3) What is the nature of my fellowship and sharing with other Christians?

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


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Last updated November 23, 2017